Janice Cole Clark
1916 – 2008
Essay by Nancy Clark
Janice Cole Clark came to be known on Warren’s Point as the matriarch of her generation. She first came to Little Compton as a “summer folk” who rented on Sakonnet Point, later to move here full time from Pawtucket RI. She lived through the Great Depression, which took a toll on her family. Her father lost his lace factory. Janice recalled memories of a Christmas that almost wasn’t—until her brother came home with a tree on Christmas Eve. She reported feeling proud of her dad for eventually being able to pay off all of his debts—a rare occurrence at that time.
Janice commuted to Hope High School in Pawtucket, and then attended Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School and lived in Boston in her 20’s at the YWCA. She went on to marry Homer Dewey, who died of trichinosis three months after having gotten married. She moved back to Little Compton and, in time, her brother Roy introduced her to his hunting buddy Kempton Clark. Janice and Kempton got married in 1946. Along with sheep, chickens and geese, they raised their three children on the family property on Warren’s Point. Warren Kempton was born in 1947; Susan Jane in 1948, and Nancy in 1951.
Janice worked for Shethar Real Estate and Insurance Company, and was among the first to greet many newcomers to the town. To this day, you can find people who said “Janice was the first person I met in Little Compton. She helped me find a summer rental.”
In her spare time, Janice volunteered for local groups including the Warren’s Point Beach Club, the Little Compton Garden Club, the Village Improvement Society, the LC Historical Society, The Brownell House, Save the Bay, Friends of Sakonnet Lighthouse, the Ladies Aid of the Congregational Church, the Thrift Shop, and the Little Compton Community Center. For years, she sent out a letter to help raise money for the RI Heart Fund (both of her parents died of heart disease). Due to her active involvement in the town and her efforts to help Keep Little Compton Little, Janice was known and respected by many townspeople and described as being a special lady in her generation.
In 1993, at age 77, Janice suffered a stroke that left her unable to find the words to speak fluently. Her skills were similar to those of her 2 year old granddaughter. She fought hard to recover and with time, she relearned how to speak (though not as fluently as she would have liked) and live independently. Her greatest regret after the stroke was that she “couldn’t do anything.” She had dedicated her life to volunteerism; she missed being able to be involved in town happenings.
When the opportunity arose to wash dishes for the Senior Lunches at the LC Community Center, she grabbed it, much to her delight. Finally, she could “do something” and was once again able to help others. This job boosted her spirits and for several years gave her life greater purpose and meaning. She was likely one of the oldest people at the Community Center luncheons and easily deserved to be served a lunch, but that was not her desire.
Janice spent the last three years of her life on a downhill slide while living at home, with the help of her children and caretakers. She would greet everyone with a smile, was always “fine” when asked how she was, and rarely complained about anyone or anything. She is remembered for her graciousness to all who met her.
I am from…
I am from the Great Depression
From Christmas stockings weighted with fruit
And a Christmas tree that almost wasn’t.
I am from snow beneath my sled
To croquet and
the turtles in Round Pond,
now enclosed by Nature’s walls.
I am from double features
And huge green bloomers.
From hopscotch and jump rope.
I am from sewing and reading.
From the breathtaking eclipse in Sakonnet
And a mighty tree I climbed
Trying to peek over the leafy branches.
I am from steamed chocolate pudding and chicken pie.
From twenty-five cents for a clean room.
I am from dresses in winter and shorts in summer.
I am from “Practice the piano” and straight A’s.
From Junior Achievement group to business school.
I am from Providence and Little Compton.
From England and Scotland.
From summers with cousins and family Thanksgivings.
I am from cherished memories now forgotten
From the tree my ancestors planted centuries ago.Poem by her granddaughter, Mary Clark McGrath
Nancy Clark, Daughter
An Excerpt from Claire Johnson’s History Through Women She Has Known
My husband Steve and I moved to Little Compton in 1978, some 42 years ago, and the very first person we met upon arriving in Little Compton was Janice Clark at Shethar Real Estate. At the time I had been offered a music position at Westport Middle School, and we needed a place to live. My very knowledgeable Principal Paul Wilber of Little Compton, directed us through the backroads to Little Compton, and to Shethar Real Estate, by far the best advice we have ever had. How lucky we were! Janice greeted us with her radiant smile and blue eyes, and her hair pulled back in that lovely bun. Her red and white gingham check blouse, and blue denim wrap skirt from LL Bean has always brought a smile when I remember her. She welcomed us into the office as warmly as if we were old friends. She then said she had a winter rental available- her sister in law’s- and she would take us there straight away! My next question was “Is there any water view? Janice laughed with a very knowing smile, replying “Yes”, but little did we know our first two winter seasons in Little Compton would be at the lovely Farmhouse on Warren’s Pt. with water views from almost every window!
We were soon in our car, following Janice to Sue and Ev Stowell’s house, where Sue stood outside waiting, in her shorts, and comfy blue polo shirt, with her two beloved dogs, Dawn, a sweet German Shepherd, and Dusky, a happy frisky Golden Retriever romping on either side of her. The Farmhouse sat just across the big lawn on the Stowell’s amazing property, and Sue and Ev (Henry) and Dawn and Dusky would become our very first friends in Little Compton.
An Excerpt from Claire Johnson‘s History Through Women She Has Known
April 22, 2020