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1410 E Bowman Ave.
Las Cruces, NM 88001-3001
Phone: (575) 526-2419
Fax: (575) 526-7944

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Janet Kay
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1954 - 2019
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Obituary for Janet Kay Vanderbeck (Reese)

Janet Kay  Vanderbeck (Reese)
Janet Kay (Reese) Vanderbeck, after courageously battling leiomyosarcoma cancer for over 17 months, passed gently into the night Sat evening, Oct 12, 2019, in Las Cruces, NM. She was 65 years old.

Janet was born in southern Ohio in the summer of 1954. Her family settled down in Dayton. Janet graduated from Northridge High School May 1972. The following year, she graduated from Miami Jacobs Jr. College of Business. Janet started working for the USA Federal Government, a career than eventually spanned over 35 years. She worked at Wright Patterson AFB in the Foreign Technology Davison (FTD) as a secretary (now known as an administrative assistant). It was during her time working at FTD that started her fascination with the science of Ufology. This was a passion of hers the rest of her life. She was also an avid reader.

It was while working at FTD she had an on-again off-again relationship with an Airman, who was from the Phoenix, AZ, area. When his enlistment expired, the Airman said he would move back to AZ. He did so in Aug 1979.

Janet worked at several different departments during her tenure at WPAFB.
Her last job at Wright Patterson was as a diplomatic liaison officer. That position almost made her a part of American history.

In her department, it was customary for the more senior officers be assigned to USA embassies overseas. It was Janet’s turn to get sent abroad. This would have occurred late summer 1979. At the last minute, her boss assigned an USAF Captain to go instead. Janet was upset at her boss; she continued to do her job excellently as always, but the friendly chit-chat ended. Oh, I forgot to mention the country she would have been assigned to was Iran.

Iranian students overtook and occupied the American Embassy in Tehran on Sun, Oct 4, 1979. The next morning when she arrived at work, she made a beeline to her boss’ office. She walked in and asked him if he thought something like the Iranian Hostage crises could have happened to her & if this was the reason he did not send her to Iran. He indicated as much. Janet thanked him for his excellent judgment & started chit-chatting with him again.

Janet always said that Ohio looked best “In your rear-view mirror.” She hated the Midwest weather. It was out West in the dessert where she yearned to live: beautiful terrain, spacious scenery, not too cold, low humidity and sunny days aplenty.

Christmas Day, 1983, Janet spent the day at her older sister Sharyl’s house with her extended family. That particular date occurred during the "Great Freeze of '83." It was the WORST Christmas weather the family could remember in their lifetimes. Janet proclaimed that this was the LAST winter she would spend in OH.

By the summer of 1984, it looked like Janet would be one of the only members of her family left in OH. Her grandmother moved to Las Vegas, NV. Shortly thereafter, her mother and father moved to Alamogordo, NM and her sister’s family moved moved to Las Cruces, NM.

Jul 1984, Janet went on vacation to visit her family in NM. Sharyl suggested to Janet that she apply for a federal job in Las Cruces. She called the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) just outside of town. As fate would have it, an opening was available. They asked her if she could interview for the position the next day! (Can you imagine the interview outfit she threw together with only her vacation clothes she brought to the dessert?) She had the interview the next day. A short time later, Janet was called & offered the job as Procurement Clerk.

Janet and her Former Airmen from AZ (FAA) had been keeping in touch over the years: phone calls, letters and postcards. They even met each other in Las Vegas, NV, in Sep 1982. It just so happened that neither of them were dating anyone in particular at the time. Near the end of that trip, FAA asked her if she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. Janet said FAA would have to “properly” ask her the question first. End of conversation. Both went back to their respective states.

In the back of her mind, Janet thought she would look up FAA once she got settled in Las Cruces. A phone call shattered that illusion.

The last night in her apartment in Dayton, Janet was going through the house one last time before she locked up. The landline phone rang and it was FAA. He called Janet to inform her of that he was getting married in Nov 1984. Janet was surprised and dismayed. They talked awhile and went on with their separate lives.

Aug 1984, Janet transferred to NASA WSTF just outside of Las Cruces, NM. It was not long before Janet was promoted to a Procurement Specialist. With her eye set on advancement, she obtained her Associate Degree in Occupational Business at New Mexico State University in Jan 1996.

Janet loved working for NASA at WSTF as a Procurement Specialist. She used to joke that she had the perfect job for a woman: “I get to do a lot of shopping with other people’s money.” She excelled at her job so well that she earned a very favorable reputation: give Janet enough lead time and she would get you EXACTLY what you wanted. The following example shows how she earned that reputation.

One year, the WSTF was doing some testing in an area where the pipes had been installed at the site’s inception in 1963. During the test, the pipes burst. New pipes were requisitioned to replace the damaged ones. Several engineers approached her and said there is another set of test pipes that were just as old and should be replaced as well. Janet got permission and modified the requisition to obtain replacement pipes for the other area. She got a call from the Legal at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC). The lawyer was asking for the justification for replacing the pipes in the area that had not been damaged. She essentially asked the attorney how much was a life worth of the person(s) that could possibly be injured when those pipes eventually would be damaged? The attorney thanked Janet and ended the call. The lawyer approved the modified request. Several JSC procurement personnel called Janet and asked her what she said to get the lawyer to approve her modifications (the attorney had a reputation of being VERY hard nosed).

Janet thoroughly enjoyed living in Las Cruces and the desert southwest. After she got settled in her apartment, she spent most of her weekends exploring our 47th state. The longer she resided in Las Cruces, the more she embraced New Mexico as her home.

Just after 17 years of residing in Las Cruces, Janet answers her landline Tue evening, Aug 28, 2001. It was FAA. He called to inform Janet he had just signed divorce papers and would officially be divorced within 60 days. (It actually took 80 days.) FAA suggested he come over to visit Janet during the Thanksgiving holiday. After a few days, Janet called FAA and said she would agree to see him then. (Unknown to FAA, Janet insured he indeed was a divorced man before meeting him.)

FAA drove over the Wed before Thanksgiving, 2001. Janet & FAA hit it off immediately. Before FAA drove back to Phoenix, they agreed he would come back to Las Cruces to spend the Christmas holiday with her. For Valentine’s Day 2002, FAA flew to El Paso. Janet picked him up at the airport & then waited one and a half hours to make it into the Sate Line BBQ for dinner. It was a romantic night indeed.

Once they started dating again, Janet brought up a bet they made in the late 1970’s. The bet was whoever got married first owed the other person $100. FAA remembered the bet and paid Janet $100. A bet is a bet, eh?

FAA and Janet continued their long distance relationship and made it work. They went on several vacations together. The most memorable one was when they went to Speed Week during the Daytona 500 of Feb 2004. Janet, a lifelong NASCAR fan, got to watch her favorite driver at the time, Dale Earnhardt Jr., win “The Great American Race.”

Two years and nine months to the day of their reunion meeting, I, Stephen Vanderbeck proposed to Janet Reese and she accepted. Thirteen days later, we were married at the Justice of the Peace in Las Cruces. While they both lived just shy of 400 miles apart from one another, it just felt right to do it.

During this time, Janet applied for several procurement positions in the Phoenix area. She applied to the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) under the Department of Energy as a Procurement Specialist. She was accepted. Because of her position, her move to Phoenix was paid for by the Federal Government. Janet moved into my home.

Once Janet moved to the Phoenix area, we had decided where we wanted to retire: Las Cruces, NM. Janet always loved lining in Las Cruces. During my several visits to the city, I grew fond of it as well. We agreed the would move to Las Cruces once I was eligible to retire in Jan 2009, we sold my house in Phoenix and then get a residence in New Mexico.

Janet started working for WAPA May 2005. She was able to make a smooth transition from NASA WSTF. She cheerfully worked at WAPA for the next four years and two months.

Janet retired at 55 years of age after over 35 years of federal government service in Jul 2009. Steve will not be eligible to retire from his job until Jan 2011. To make the next 18 months somewhat tolerable for Steve, Janet would get up nearly every morning to fix breakfast for the two of them, pack Steve’s lunch and get him out the door to work. Steve told everyone he felt like Ward Cleaver.

Jan 2011, I retired from the Salt River Project (SRP) after 26 years and six months of service. By this time, everything had fallen into place: we sold my house to someone that let us rent it out till we moved to NM, had our new, custom modular home built and moved to Las Cruces in the Trails West Senior Community. We moved into our new home Mar 2011.

Our time together at Trails West was idyllic. I liked playing cribbage and poker at the clubhouse. Janet enjoyed making greeting cards and playing board games at the clubhouse. We both enjoyed going to the cinema and traveling throughout NM and the United States. We actually thought we had found Nirvana.

Mar 2018, I had to take Janet to the emergency room. She had a unitary track infection. While running a myriad of tests, the CT scan showed a tumor in her uterus and a nodule on her lung. A biopsy of the nodule indicated she had cancer. A hysterectomy was performed to remove the tumor. She went through two different chemotherapy cycles in an attempt to fight the cancer. After having to go to the emergency room after her last two chemo sessions and the fact the cancer kept growing, Janet decided she wanted to do home hospice. Jul 3, 2019, she started home hospice with me as full time caregiver. I could no longer take care of her at home, so I had her transferred to La Posada Mesilla Valley Hospice care on Oct 9. She passed away three days later.

While our fairy tale romance did not end “...and they lived happily ever after,” we had a great run together. At least we got to make our fairy tale a reality for almost two decades. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Janet is survived by her husband Stephen Vanderbeck (Las Cruces, NM); her father and mother John & Mary Reese (Las Cruces, NM); sister Patti Reese (Miamisburg, OH); Sharyl’s daughter Vanessa Rohler (Tucson, AZ); Patti’s son Derrick Sturgill (Eaton, OH); and other blessed relatives and loving friends too numerous to mention.

Janet is predeceased by Scott Rohler (Sharyl’s son; Aug 1992 Las Cruces, NM): Sharyl (Reese) Rohler (sister; Mar 2012 Tucson, AZ).

There are no services scheduled. Janet, at her request, was cremated at Getz Funeral Home, 1410 E Bowman Ave, Las Cruces, NM 88001. Her husband, Stephen, has taken possession of her remains.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to: Mesilla Valley Hospice, 299 Montana Ave, Las Cruces, NM 88005.

To send flowers to the family of Janet Kay Vanderbeck (Reese), please visit our Heartfelt Sympathies Store.

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