By Steven J. Smith
HIGHLAND BEACH — Walter Janke remembered his wife, Maria, as a kind and thoughtful woman who constantly placed the needs of others above her own.
“That’s just the type of person she was,” Mr. Janke said. “She was a caring person. Helping people in need. That was her calling.”
Mrs. Janke, of Highland Beach, passed away March 14 after a bout with pancreatic cancer. She was 72.
Maria Dougherty was born May 25, 1943, in Orange, N.J. She attended Our Lady of the Valley High School and graduated in the class of 1960. She went on to Katharine Gibbs College, a secretarial school, and Boston College.
Mr. Janke said he met his wife through work.
“We both worked for companies owned by Litton Industries and we met at a Christmas party,” he said. “She was a very pretty gal. Our first date was on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. We went to McGovern’s, an Irish bar and restaurant in Newark, N.J. I called her the next day and took her to the St. Patrick’s Day parade. We dated three years and were married on January 16, 1965. We were married for 51 years.”
The couple moved to Highland Beach in 2005 after Mr. Janke retired.
“We liked it there,” he said. “Highland Beach has wonderful people. We spent seven months out of the year in Florida and five in New Jersey. We came here for the warm weather and we like the people. Maria enjoyed going to the Highland Beach Library. She and I also took on the coordination of social activities in our community. Early on, Maria volunteered at the Boca Raton Hospital, where she worked in their prenatal area. She would also take care of newborn babies.”
Mrs. Janke’s volunteerism evolved from her work as assistant vice president of the Crum & Forester Organization, a subsidiary of the Xerox Corporation.
“She ran their foundation,” Mr. Janke said. “At the time, it was a million-dollar foundation that donated money to the community and community-served organizations such as Goodwill and the American Cancer Society. She would choose the organization and how much they would get.”
Mr. Janke added his wife served as co-chairwoman of the United Way’s professional and employee campaign and worked with the Saint Clare’s Hospital Development Committee, the American Heart Association, St. Elizabeth College, the County College of Morris, the Morris County Chamber of Commerce and the 200 Club of Morris County, N.J.
“She was on so many boards and had so much good will that the Zonta Club of Morristown, N.J., picked her as 1992 Woman of the Year,” he said.
Known as “Mimi” to her grandchildren, Mrs. Janke also loved making her home and her family the center of her world.
“She was not just a professional person,” Mr. Janke said. “She loved entertaining, cooking, planting flowers, making the house look nice. She was a fun-loving person who always had a great smile.”
Mr. Janke said his wife would be remembered most for her selflessness and friendliness.
“She always greeted you with a smile,” he said. “She was so good to people. Didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She was a wonderful person.”
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Janke is survived by their three children, Thomas, Laura and David; her sister, Cathy Crisafulli; and 10 grandchildren.
The funeral was held on March 18. She was interred at Restland Memorial Park in East Hanover, N.J. Instead of flowers, the family has asked that donations go to local hospice organizations and/or the American Cancer Society.