Doctors see a range of reactions when giving people an end-of-life prognosis. Rarely do they see joy.
Then again, Flint-area piano instructor Janet Walworth was always a bit remarkable. When doctors told her nothing more could be done for her illness, she got on the phone and started calling friends and family – to share her excitement that she would finally see Jesus face to face. On January 30, 2023, she did.
Janet Susan Walworth, a concert pianist and renowned piano instructor for more than six decades, went home to be with Jesus just days after her 83rd birthday. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 11 a.m. at Berean Baptist Church, 6705 Rustic Ridge Trail, Grand Blanc. Pastor Robert L. Dickie will preside.
In her memory, a Flint music scholarship will be established in Janet’s name. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the scholarship in care of Sharp Funeral Homes, 6063 Fenton Road, Grand Blanc, MI 48507; 810-694-4900.
Janet was born of second-generation missionary parents on January 19, 1940 in Guatemala, Central America. When she was seven, she trusted Jesus Christ as her Savior and committed to following him. Her love for Jesus was demonstrated through her positive outlook and encouraging words for those around her.
Janet learned to play the piano at the age of four, and by age 10, she was traveling by mule under the moonlight to churches in the nearby villages, conducting three-hour performances. For these occasions, she learned to play the accordion – since she couldn’t fit her piano on the mule.
She completed her early education in a boarding school for children of missionaries in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Her family loved hearing her reminisce about growing up in Central America, with stories of how she fearlessly scaled volcanoes, explored remote caves and played in the rain forests.
At age 15, Janet and her family fled to the states when civil war broke out in the country. She and her younger sister Gail finished their studies at Ben Lippen School, a Christian boarding school in Ashville, NC. Janet then graduated from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago as a piano major and theory minor, before settling in Flint and Grand Blanc.
Music was her constant: Janet played the piano, organ and accordion. In 1960, she became a private piano teacher in the Flint area; she was active with the Flint Music Teachers Association (FMTA) and an active member and performer with St. Cecilia Society in Flint since 1961. She served as president and vice president of FMTA and was twice named Teacher of the Year.
She was awarded a 50-year pin as a member of the Michigan Music Teachers Association. She was active with Michigan Junior Festivals and, for over 50 years, as an adjudicator for the Michigan Music Teachers Association (MMTA). She continued to adjudicate piano competitions and to prepare students for competitions, even after becoming ill. Just days after her passing, three of her students earned scholarships when they competed in her honor.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, she performed as a concert pianist across mid-Michigan before focusing entirely on teaching. She built a private practice that successfully blended her intense standards of excellence with her personal attention to students. She would always say that her students kept her young; they gave her great joy and each one was special in her eyes.
For the last decade, she was singer and pianist for The Flint Mastersingers. Last year, she performed with three other musicians as the “Octogenarians In Concert,” and in October, she was featured at the St. Cecilia Society’s Harvest Music Fest, where she was celebrated as the organization’s oldest performer. She was preparing for another concert this year.
Over the decades, she served as organist and choir director at such churches as Kirkridge Presbyterian Church in Grand Blanc and First Congregational Church in Flint. For nearly 50 years, Janet served as organist and pianist for Berean Baptist Church in Grand Blanc. Her Berean family was a source of great joy for her.
She enjoyed creating amazing flower gardens, watching and identifying bird species, reading mysteries and keeping her mind active through Sudoku and jigsaw puzzles. She was a prankster and a ruthless card player (Phase 10 and Five Crowns were her favorites), known for humor and creativity. A world traveler, she visited Canada, Denmark, England, Germany, Mexico, Switzerland and countries across Central America, while back here at home, she loved watching Grand Blanc develop into what it has now become.
Her family takes comfort in the many memories of listening to Janet play Bach and Brahms, Mozart and Chopin. Her incredible work ethic, even in her 80s. The silly faces, goofy jokes and cackling laughter. Her ever-present, never-diminished joy. And, especially, the knowledge that she now sings and worships at the feet of Jesus.
Janet leaves Norman, her husband of 53 years, and children Cindy (Stacey) Hedrick of Flint, Valerie (Greg) Haight Medler of Grand Blanc, Todd (Margaret) Haight of Grand Blanc, Bart Walworth of Flint and Brad (Christina) Walworth of Jackson; grandchildren Nick (Pam) Skiver and Casey (Jacob) Burkhart; Lauren and Rebecca Haight; Morgan Simpson; Macie Hedrick; Bradley (Nikki) and Kristopher Walworth; and Sarah (Alex), Andy, Trevor (Caitlin) and Stacey Hood. She loved her countless great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins and close friends. She was very close to her sister Gail (Jim) McKelvey of Hemet, CA and brothers Ralph (Kathy) Cassel of Ridgefield, WA and Dennis (Diane) Cassel of Port Orford, OR.
Janet was preceded in death by her father, Herbert Cassel; mother, Doris Cassel; brother, Jim Cassel; and grandsons Jason Skiver and Matthew Simpson.
To send flowers to the family, please visit our floral store.