Requiem for Janis Coblentz
March 8 is Women’s Day. There will be articles, and in Europe people give acacia blossoms to the women in their lives…but this year, I want to recognize one woman.
Janis Coblentz,–of the original dozen or so Wombats– died this month, after a three year long cancerous siege.
Her brave life partner and tandem/bike/Airstream adventuring man, Eric Johnson, stood by her during the siege, and kept her comfortable last month as Jan ran out of steam.
My first sight of Jan was in 1987 at a Sausalito health food store, where she came over and introduced herself…and shortly after joined that charter bunch of fat-tire women in Marin County. New Year’s Day 1988 was a drenching downpour of a winter’s day. Jan, Eric, and only a couple others headed into the hills…
The following summer she and Joan Nilsen were “best women” at Charlie and my ‘welding bells’ nuptials. I got the (used) dress, the (semblance of) pomp, and the genuinely delicious food aspects of a Solemn Occasion right. …but since weddings in general seem like dress-up play-acting, I couldn’t resist tweaking other givens–no one was asked to don fancy clothes. Having attendants was good enough, and Jan, Joan and “Jerome” (Charlie’s dude-of-honor) gave us that pinch of style.
Jan’s panache arose from an inimitable blend of forties Hollywood glamour and late century organic Earth-Woman. When she told stories, she’d often punctuate them with extra vigor, italicizing what she’d just seen or done, like when they witnessed the 50th birthday of the GG Bridge.
“You could not believe what it was like!” she told me of their day. “Fireworks raining, pouring! down off the deck of the bridge, with the bay reflecting this golden light. A magic night– thanks to the bikes– with front row seats up in the hills…”
I took notes.
If you ever catch me in lipstick, it’s thanks to her.
If you ever have some of my home-grown vegetables, Ms Coblentz master gardener inspired that, too.
From the bike to the food, to the dignified carriage on any of her bicycles, she embodied the cycling way of life. She must have a wall covered with trophies (she managed to be eight years older than me, but look younger then me, and raced like a twenty year old). They, along with a garden, a broken-hearted mate and a hole in the Fairfax community, will mark the presence of a remarkable woman who faced the end without flinching, complaining, or weeping.
Janis, you inspire me.