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Janet Tate was a vocalist, loving wife and mother

Talented vocalist, loving wife, mother and grandmother

Janet Virginia Jordan Tate died in her sleep in the early morning hours of Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at age 81. She had recently been in failing health due to multiple problems related to her heart and lungs.

Mrs. Tate was born on December 14, 1931 in Birmingham, Alabama, the ninth child and the youngest of 7 girls in a family of 10 children. Hers was a musical family. Her father was director for a high school marching band as well as for a community band and her mother played violin in the local symphony orchestra. Each of Mrs. Tate’s siblings learned to play various instruments. She played flute and piano, though she eventually became primarily a vocalist.

When Mrs. Tate was 17, she studied voice with the Julliard faculty, learning the “Bel Canto” technique she practiced the rest of her life. She later studied at Howard College, now Samford University, in Birmingham, earning a bachelor’s degree in vocal music. While she was there, mutual friends introduced her to a student at another local school, Birmingham-Southern College, named John Tate.

She and Mr. Tate had grown up living less than a mile from one another. They had even attended the same high school, where Mr. Tate had admired his future wife, who was a year older, from afar. He was charmed by her singing voice, among other attributes.

“The most attractive part of her was her smile, which was a magnet to her personality,” he said.

They were married in Birmingham in October of 1954 and lived in Sylacauga, Alabama for 3 years, where they both taught in the local school district. They welcomed their first child before moving to Texas. After Mr. Tate finished graduate school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, they lived for a time in San Jose, where Mrs. Tate gave birth to a second son.

Mrs. Tate was a working mother, teaching vocal music in public schools at the primary and secondary levels in Dallas and San Jose as well as previously in Alabama.

In 1964, the Tates settled in Claremont, where Mrs. Tate earned a master’s degree in vocal music from Claremont Graduate University and taught vocal music in the Alta Loma and Central school districts in Rancho Cucamonga. Later, she developed an interest in home economics, particularly sewing, and taught in that area until retiring in 1987.

Aside from her professional career, Mrs. Tate was known as a soprano soloist in the southern California area. Her solo performance experience included singing in the arena in Ephesus, Turkey where the apostle Paul preached and singing on HCJB radio in Quito, Ecuador. Locally, she was a soloist with the University of La Verne’s Choir and Orchestra (1984) as well as with the Claremont United Methodist Church Choir and the Pilgrim Congregational Church Choir in Pomona. Mrs. Tate’s specialty was performing solos in large works, such as the Verdi Requiem, Mozart Requiem and Beethoven’s Mass in C major.

One of Mrs. Tate’s favorite retirement pastimes was travel. She and her husband visited the British Isles, France, Germany, Spain, China, Russia and Austria and, while in the latter, enjoyed singing together with the Classical Music Seminar participants in Eisenstadt. One of her favorite destinations, though, was “home, ” by which she meant Alabama and, more specifically, Birmingham. Much of her family stayed in that area and raised their families, so it was always a joy for Mrs. Tate to visit with her kinfolk.

There’s a saying, “Once a Southerner, always a Southerner.” After a few years in California, Mrs. Tate’s Southern accent faded until relatives insisted she sounded like a Yankee. She still identified as a Southerner, however, and loved to wear her GRITS hat: i.e. “Girls Raised in The South.” And yes, she did often cook grits for breakfast.

Most recently, the 2012 family reunion drew her, for the last time, to see her “homeland” and to hug the people who meant so much to her. Just after that, she and her husband flew to Missouri to see their son, grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren, a visit that will be cherished by her family for many years.

Ms. Tate couldn’t tell a joke—she always started off with the punch-line—but she had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh, her husband said. She was a people person who made friends quickly, an ability that was no more evident than during her last years at Mt. San Antonio Gardens, where she continually made new friendships and renewed old ones.

She was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend, and will be sorely missed, family shared.

Mrs. Tate is survived by her husband, John Tate of Claremont; by her sons and daughters-in-law, Paul and Barbara Tate of Wright City, Missouri and David and Tammy Tate of Menifee, California; by her grandchildren, Lora (Tate) and Jason Jacobson of Kahoka, Missouri, John Paul and Sarah Tate of High Ridge, Missouri, Cheryl (Tate) and Ryan Hatch of Chicago, Illinois and Gordon Tate of Wright City, Missouri; and by 4 great-grandchildren, Lance Jacobson and William, Kalina and Joshua Tate.

Mrs. Tate is also survived by 2 sisters, Irene (Jordan) Caplan of Dalton, Massachusetts and Maude Ellen (Jordan) Brown of Valley Grande, Alabama, and by one brother, David Jordan of Birmingham, Alabama. She was preceded in death by 2 brothers, Eugene and Timothy Jordan; by 4 sisters, Martha (Jordan) Stewart, Sara (Jordan) Coe, Carolyn (Jordan) McCracken and JoAnn (Jordan) Johnston; by a number of nieces and nephews and, most recently, by one great-grandchild, Sawyer Jacobson.

A memorial service for Mrs. Tate will be held on Sunday, April 21 at 3 p.m. at the Claremont United Methodist Church, located at 211 W. Foothill Blvd. in Claremont.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Cotty College FAIB, 1000 W. Austin Blvd., Nevada, MO 64772-2790, or to the Mt. San Antonio Gardens Homeship Fund, 900 E. Harrison Ave., Pomona CA 91767. Please write “In Memory of Janet Tate” on the memo line.

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