Janet Nicholson Jenkins Kimzey, 77, passed away quietly and peacefully in her sleep in Brevard, NC, in the dawning hours of January 19, 2023, after a prolonged battle with several ailments. Her last days were spent in the comfort of home, with the adored company of and attentive care from her devoted husband of 35 years, Jim Kimzey.
Janet was a loving, personable, spiritual and generous wife, daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, and friend. She enthusiastically supported, encouraged, listened, sought and imparted advisement, and applauded our daily lives and long-term endeavors. Her causes included education advocacy, and she had an inherent affinity for oral and written narration. Conversations with her family and friends evoked her vibrant laughter and occasional tears.
Janet was born at Duke University Hospital on March 5, 1945. She spent most of her childhood and much of her adult life in Raleigh (through her first marriage to Howard “Buddy” Dean).
Janet and Jim married in 1987 and moved to Brevard in 1995, where they enjoyed life in the Blue Ridge Mountains for 27 years, at the “farm house” nestled in the hillside overlooking the French Broad River.
Janet cherished time spent with Jim at their home. She loved cooking with him, reading by his side with a roaring fire in the stone fireplace, listening to their favorite musicians, discussing topics of common interest, hosting gatherings and preparing meals for family and friends during holidays and other occasions, walking the sloping drive down to the pond, keeping the property maintained and beautiful, cultivating their multiple flower gardens, watching the birds they kept fed with seed and suet, and caring for the cats and dogs they lived with over the years. She even relished sharing stories of the rare, unexpected encounters with a black bear who was known to leave his paw imprint on their kitchen windows (amusing so long as he remained outside of the glass).
With Jim’s presence, there was no place she would have rather been. Over the years she described him as her advocate, confidant, stalwart, best friend, and tireless caregiver.
Janet was also an educated, strong, independent, and successful woman. She raised two sons from her first marriage as a single working mother in the late 70s and early 80s, a significant accomplishment for any lifetime.
Janet graduated from Broughton High School (1963), earned a BA from Coker College (1966) in three years, and completed a Master’s from NC State (1994). She was a constant reader and a lifelong student of many subjects, such as literature, history, religion, science, family genealogy, even sports. Her mind rarely paused; she just loved to learn – it was so innate that she maintained lifelong friendships with former teachers and professors from high school and Coker College. Her love of education and learning was a bond she shared with Jim, a former attorney and University of North Carolina Morehead Scholar.
She paid forward the opportunities her education provided. She became a proponent of education and literacy for all, especially children. She taught in the public school system, was a leader in the Junior League of Raleigh, and for more than 10 years volunteered as a tutor and administrator at Rise & Shine, an after-school program for economically-disadvantaged and minority students in Transylvania County. In addition, she was a long-time member of Friends of the Transylvania County Library, and she served on its Board of Directors for two terms.
One of her most significant accomplishments, which she was too modest to broadcast, even to family, was her Chief Fundraiser role during the planning and construction of the Transylvania County Library. Her phone calls and communications were instrumental in lobbying for and securing significant funding allocated for its construction.
She was a member of The Wednesday Club, a long-running Transylvania County Book Club, which she considered an honor passed down by her mother-in-law, Margaret Kimzey. Later, as her great nieces, great nephews, and grandchildren became old enough to read, she began sending monthly care packages of books to their homes every month. The reading packages earned the affectionate moniker of “Nana’s Book Club,” and she continued to send them while her health allowed. Like other family members before them, Emma Rose and Braden Dean have a mini-library from Nana.
She was not only a bibliophile. She and Jim often travelled to England, Scotland, and Ireland. For three summers, she and Jim studied at Oxford University in association with the University of North Carolina/Duke University alumni program. She also had a love for music, which she inherited from her mother and father, who had both sung in their church choirs. She and Jim shared broad musical tastes and often attended concerts in Raleigh and Brevard.
Janet also had many special friends she treasured from her childhood and younger adult years in Raleigh, as well as her many years in Brevard. There are too many to recognize without omissions, but they retained a positive presence in her thoughts and conversations until her last day.
She more than once described herself as a tomboy in her youth. Her father, Clauston, had been an exceptional baseball player with college scholarship and pro contract offers, and her mother, Mary, had been a champion tennis player at Winthrop College. Outside of the time the Jenkins children spent at Hayes Barton Baptist Church, in school and studying, they were nurtured in an active, sports-friendly environment. She had two athletic brothers, Jenky and Joe, and they all developed a love for Atlantic Coast Conference sports, especially basketball. She had fond memories of attending games in Reynolds Coliseum and delighted in the success of many national championship teams from the Triangle. She cheered as fervently for UNC as NC State, although the precise balance may forever remain a point of family debate.
Janet’s core values sprang from the strong roots of her parents, faithful Christians who met in church and were the original advocates for her educational pursuits. She frequently expressed a deep love and admiration for both her mother and father, as well as her astute, educated, affable, and accomplished brothers. Between the three siblings, they earned enough degrees for another generation and supported one another’s accomplishments. The work ethic instilled by their parents helped make them all successful in their own significant ways. In Janet’s later years, during unguarded moments, she would reflect on how much she missed Mary and Clauston – their kindness, stories, singing, smiles, laughter, and love. In memory of them, she did her best to carry their legacies forward every day. They would surely be proud.
In whole, someone who knew Janet well offered a perfect description: “What a wonderful, smart, interesting, and generous person Janet was. She was always remembering others’ birthdays and milestones. She kept her own birthday calendar before social media was even invented. She was also the keeper of family history and recipes. At home on the hilltop in the mountains of Transylvania County, she was surrounded by birds and fruit and flowers and vegetables that she helped bring to life in the garden. In the home that she shared with her beloved husband, Jim, she had books that she had read on every table, nook, corner, closet and shelf. Her love of reading kept the county librarians busy. And who can forget the laughter that always was a part of a visit with her.”
We cheer and honor her life. We love you and will miss you.
Janet Kimzey was predeceased by her parents, Mary Ellen Asbill Jenkins and Clauston Levi Jenkins, Sr., and her stepson, Tabor M. Kimzey. She is survived by her husband, James M. Kimzey; her two sons, Howard C. (Tripp) Dean, III of Raleigh, and David L. N. Dean of Pittsboro; by her stepsons James (Terri) Kimzey of Raleigh and Brad (Lisa) Kimzey of Brevard; by her grandchildren, Emma Rose N. Dean and Braden W. Dean of Pittsboro, and her granddaughters, Shady Grove Kimzey of Efland, Carly Kimzey of New York, and Jessica E. Kimzey of Brevard. In addition, she is survived by her brothers, Clauston (Beth) Jenkins of Wilmington, and Joseph (Shipley) Jenkins of Chapel Hill, nine beloved nieces and nephews, and 13 great nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, gifts in her memory may be made to organizations close to her heart: Rise and Shine/Neighbors in Ministry, the Transylvania County Library Foundation, or the North Carolina Museum of Art.
Rise and Shine/Neighbors in Ministry: PO Box 1036, Brevard, NC 28712; (828) 883-2295; Email: email@example.com; https://www.riseshine.org/how-to-help.
Transylvania County Library Foundation: 212 South Gaston Street, Brevard, NC 28712; (828) 884-3151, ext. 1818; https://library.transylvaniacounty.org/foundation/.
North Carolina Museum of Art: 2110 Blue Ridge Rd. Raleigh, NC 27607; (919) 664-6838; https://ncartmuseum.org/support/donate/.
A graveside service officiated by Rob Field, Director of the Center for Spiritual Wisdom (https://centersw.org/, 828-577-8168), will be held in the family plot at the Davidson River Cemetery, Davidson River Cemetery Rd, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768, at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, January 28, 2023. Attendees are reminded that the entrance to Davidson River Road from Old Hendersonville Road is not passable so you must enter Davidson River Road from Highway 64 at Pisgah Forest Baptist Church then take a left onto Cemetery Road.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh on Saturday, February 11, 2023.