Mom spread kindness and love, one person at a time
By Peter Weinberger
It’s become common, especially during this election season, for some of us to hear the phrase “Mr. Claremont.” But no single resident can actually claim that title, not officially anyway, as there are many deserving gents out there.
I am sad to report that a real-life “Mrs. Claremont” died on February 2, at the tender age of 90. It just so happens this person is my mother, Janis Irene McMaken Weinberger. She spent the last four-plus years of her life under the excellent care of the Pilgrim Place Health Services Center.
Many of you know her as part of the dynamic duo of Janis and Martin Weinberger, owners of the Claremont COURIER for 54 years until 2007. My father Martin died in 2011.
Although my father was more visible as editor and publisher of the newspaper, my mom blazed her own trail, especially with her work supporting seniors in the community. And it all started because of the challenges we had maintaining a high quality of life for my grandmother Loretta (Janis’ mother), during her last years of life in the 1970s.
What I first witnessed as a youth was a mom who took enthusiasm to a new level. It wasn’t that her glass was half full—it simply overflowed. This attitude was contagious with anyone Janis worked with, especially her husband Martin, who could play the grouchy, fiery, just-show-me-the-facts newspaperman.
Amazing, fantastic, lovely, wonderful, beautiful—five terms often present in conversations with Janis Weinberger.
As her son, mom was an amazing source of support while growing up, no matter what so-called creative ideas I dreamed up. One example occurred when I was a student at El Roble and wanted to publish my own comic strip. It was single piece of paper with several examples of the adventures of “Kevin Klutz.”
I would print up 200 copies and stuff them in the news racks with the COURIER newspaper all around town. Being a young entrepreneur, I charged a nickel for each edition. At the end of the week, I’d count how many comics were missing, then find my father and tell him how much he owed me.
By the third publication of Kevin Klutz, Martin started to push back, asking for more proof that someone had actually paid for the comics. “This is part of how you learn to run a business,” I was told. Hmmm. Seeing the disappointment in my eyes, Janis calmly took Martin aside and quickly changed his tune. The editor and publisher had become mush in her hands. He always did with mom. Turns out, the comic strip only lasted a few more weeks as I had a friend Kevin, who was getting upset with me.
This is just one of many examples of how their love and respect would complement each other. During the early years of their COURIER ownership, Janis and Marty worked together side-by-side to produce Claremont’s community newspaper. She continued to have an important role as the newspaper evolved, playing the role of utility infielder. If someone called in sick, no worries, Janis could complete the classifieds, take a photo, design a page or manage the office. We all knew she was our secret weapon.
Good friend Muriel Farritor called Janis the “leader of the pack” when it came to helping seniors and developing programs and services at the Joslyn Senior Center. She was a key person in starting Get About transportation and raised thousands of dollars through a brick campaign for the Joslyn.
Her love of people and her willingness to listen enabled her to instantly become friends with seniors when reminiscing. Janis started this with her mother and found the stories “intoxicating.” We still have dozens of pages of handwritten notes at home from those chats.
As you can tell I’m quite proud of my mama, a real candidate who could easily qualify as Mrs. Claremont. She clearly made her mark and left our community a better place to live.