Click here to listen to this article!
Janie Maria Richardson Putnam was born April 23, 1942 to Palmar Henry Richardson and Annie Maria Richardson in Leroy, a small farming community in southwest Alabama about 60 miles north of Mobile. She died Sunday night, July 23, 2023 with her husband and daughter by her side. She struggled eight long years with several health issues. She made two trips to Mayo Clinic and several to UAB but none of the doctors could agree on why she was losing muscle strength. One doctor said she was the mystery girl or the mystery case. Even though very weak, she was a fighter with one doctor saying most people in her condition would have succumbed much earlier.
Janie’s early school years were in Leroy and in her middle school years the family moved to Macon, Ga., where Janie attended an all-girls school. The family later moved to Florence, where Janie graduated Coffee High School in 1960 in the top of her class. She graduated from Florence State University (now University of North Alabama) in 1964 again in the top of her class with a major in Elementary Education and a minor in Library Science.
Janie’s best friend married Jim’s best friend and they introduced Jim to Janie and it ended with best friends marrying best friends. Janie and Jim were married in 1963 at First Methodist Church in Florence and started their life together in Huntsville. They told everyone that they lived across the street from Wernher von Braun, but it was in a converted garage apartment behind the house across the street.
Later there was a short move to Monroe, La., and then in 1967 a return to the Huntsville area permanently.
Janie applied for a job as a librarian at Highlands Elementary School but the principal, Mrs. Hilding Holmberg, convinced her to take a classroom position.
When Jim was elected to the Huntsville City Council it was in large part because of Janie’s popularity with her former students and parents. They didn’t vote for Jim, they voted for Mrs. Putnam’s husband.
Janie retired after 30 years at Highlands but returned to teach reading parttime. One of Janie’s teacher friends said she thought Janie could “teach a frog to read.”
Janie was a long-time UAH hockey fan and later a UAH basketball fan. Her favorite time was sitting under an umbrella on the beach at Ft. Walton Beach reading a book. She would always read the last few pages of a book first before returning to the beginning.
Janie was a long-time member of Memorial Parkway Church of Christ that is now Chase Park Church of Christ.
Janie is survived by her husband Jim and daughter Paula. In 10 more days Jim and Janie would have been married 60 years.
Services were at Legacy Chapel Funeral Home on Hughes Road in Madison, Wednesday, July 26, with visitation from 1 until the 2 p.m. funeral service. Burial was at Pine Grove Methodist Church cemetery in Leroy, Friday at 10 a.m.
Donations can be made to a favorite pet rescue organization or Huntsville Botanical Garden.