Obituary: Janice Mix

Teacher, animal lover, nature enthusiast

Noah of Noah’s Ark had nothing on Janice Mix. “If there was ever a person qualified to command a ship full of wild animals, it was Janice Mix,” her family shared. An elementary school teacher for more than 25 years, she lived to share her love of life with every creature great and small ever-ready to teach, to stand and to speak to the justice she believed in.

“The classroom of her life transcended every place she lived, as those that cared for her in her final months recalled how every aspect of her world had an order she was determined to maintain,” the family shared. “Ever grateful,” her caregivers said, “her commanding leadership was anchored in humility, and every single act of kindness bestowed upon her was followed with a sincere and honest thank you.”  

Born in 1933 in Connecticut, the second child of Francis and Gladys Hill, she was most proud of her Irish kin, as well as her rumored indigenous ancestry. She grew up as a proud Yankee New Englander near her family’s gravestones, which date back to the early 16th century.

After a couple years in New Jersey, the family moved to Phoenix in the mid 1940s. While enrolled at Phoenix Union High School she met her future husband, Walter J. Mix, Jr., a harbinger of the post-Korean War Beatnik generation. Walter was a poor kid new in town from Chicago. He listened to Jazz and smoked—and her parents were terrified. Married at 18, she and Walter eventually divorced, but remained lifelong friends connected by three sons, Walter III, John and David, and their cherished grandchildren.

After Mr. Mix’s US Navy service in Newport, Rhode Island, the couple moved to Claremont so that he could pursue his MFA at the Claremont Graduate School (now Claremont Graduate University). It was a breakout time for a transformative cultural renaissance, and the youthful couple were primed for the party.

With a young family, in a relatively tiny, remote, rural college town built on top of the citrus industry, the couple lived life for art and culture, traveling regularly to Europe and living there for extended periods.  

Ms. Mix was poised for the emergence of her own life’s work. After an earlier stint at Arizona State University, she enrolled at Cal Poly Pomona, and completed her master’s degree in education while raising three sons. Her son David remembers her as persevering and tireless.

“Mom always said, ‘If you want it you’re going to have to put in the work,’” he said, “and questioned, ‘Did you ask yourself if you have done your very best?’”

She was a force for light and learning in the classroom. Beloved by her students, she believed that by doing their very best, every child would reach their potential and find fulfillment in life, her family said. Her classroom was a virtual zoo, populated by snakes, rats, and adorned with pictures of every kind of animal imaginable. But on her desk, there was only space for figurines of two species: pigs and wolves.

She is perhaps best known at Glendora, California schools for her extensive and persistent tree planting efforts that literally converted lawns to shimmering, swaying, urban forests. She found her bliss in the world less touched by human hands, and celebrated the natural world weekly at the family cabin in Mt. Baldy Village.

She was a cancer survivor, and endured at least 10 major surgeries to make repairs on her small frame and fight the disease. When she divorced, she fought literally for her life, and to raise her youngest child.

She turned to the church for resurrection, sisterhood and revival. Her dearest friends, the late Carol Chowdhury, and Joan Beaulow, along with the many still living, grieve her loss. Claremont United Church of Christ embodied the inclusive and unifying spirit that motivated her, and it was there that she volunteered endlessly to programs designed to fight hunger and inequity.

Her commitment to education continued in retirement with Delta Nu, Delta Kappa Gamma, and through tutoring programs with Claremont After School Programs, where she volunteered well into her 80s. Her deep commitment to compassion for all living things will be remembered by her volunteer work with nonprofits whose work benefits no-kill animal shelters.

She cherished her grandchildren Katholeen Janice, Jacqueline, Tommy, Alex, Gabby, Ben, Ella and Weston, and is survived by three sons, Walter III, John and David, and her beloved extended Hill family on the East Coast.  

An outdoor service for Ms. Mix will commence at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 17 at Claremont United Church of Christ, 233 W. Harrison Ave., Claremont, with a reception and St. Patrick’s Day feed and celebration immediately following.  

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