Janet Novy died at home in Helena on September 16, after living with ALS for four years.
Jan was born outside Chicago in 1952, of Swedish and Czech descent. She spent most of her childhood in La Grange Park and earned her BFA in art from Western Illinois University.
Following graduation in 1975 and many adventures, Jan came to Montana for a short-lived attempt to substitute teach at Busby. From there she worked for the Union Pacific in Wyoming, lived in a yurt on the Missouri, landed in Helena, took a brief detour to Astoria, OR, and returned to Helena for good in 1980.
She worked at On Broadway, the Montana Eagle, and Falcon Press before striking out on her own as a graphic artist. In later years, she worked at Paul’s Office Supply, the Holter Museum of Art, and The Base Camp, all the time continuing her design work.
Jan was a talented graphic artist. Some will recall how she brought her professional look to the Holter’s exhibition announcements and posters. She came to the business naturally: her father was a printer and she would help her Czech grandfather do letterpress printing in his basement. At heart, however, she was a fine artist, using watercolors and favoring non-representational works.
Unfortunately for the world, she painted as a form of private meditation; only through a series of chance events in 2017 did family and friends finally see her full portfolio. This led to a show at the Myrna Loy the next summer, which gave her great satisfaction even though she no longer could paint.
Jan married Paul Cartwright in 1985. They honeymooned in Czechoslovakia and the Outer Hebrides, the first of many oblique tours they would take. Their last trip overseas got them to Grandpa Carlson’s rye field in Sweden and—the obvious next stop—Sardinia. Even in her last weeks she was up for adventure, finally visiting Bernice and going over the back road to Deer Lodge.
Jan and Paul had two children, Alan and Kathryn. Jan was and remained impressed with them and motherhood. From sewing Halloween costumes to explaining cooking to ballet prep to family hiking throughout Montana and Western Canada, she showed the kids how to find wonder in the world.
She understood community was part of parenting, devoting her volunteer hours to kids’ activities, especially by serving on the boards of both Children’s Center and Premiere Dance Company.
Jan was a woman of many talents. She was an incredible cook. She sang, first in church, then for the kids, and more recently with Musikanten; she never did get to be a backup singer for Lou Reed. She had a mischievous sense of humor and an unquenchable desire to dance.
Jan was a member of Open Circle Sangha. She truly lived her Buddhist practice. And she was certain the Buddha would understand the importance of coffee.
Jan felt obits depicted saints far more often than was plausible. She would insist she’d always had a bad attitude. True enough, especially when it came to the self-righteous and the too proper. Many didn’t realize this because she was gracious and kind with everyone.
Jan is survived by her husband Paul Cartwright; son Alan, Bozeman; daughter Kathryn (James Tinnelly), Yokosuka, Japan; sister Sandy Wilson (Rob), Oak Brook, IL; nephew Christopher Wilson, Naperville, IL; and many in-laws and friends. She is predeceased by her parents, Otto and June Novy.
The family thanks Dr. Bailey and St. Peter’s Hospice for understanding where Jan was coming from was more important than where she was sliding to. Helena rallied as a community to support Jan; still, special mention should be made of Blackfoot River Brewing, Ten Mile Creek Brewery, and Fire Tower Coffee House. They treated her with dignity and a generosity that allowed her to remain free range as she hoped. Finally, Jan inspired the friendships and close support that everyone should be so lucky to receive; she and the family were truly fortunate.
A celebration of Jan’s life will be Monday, October 7, at 4:00 pm. St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 512 Logan Street, has kindly allowed the use of their sacred space. A reception will follow immediately at Benny’s, 108 E. 6th Ave, with stories and light refreshments.