Life Story / Obituary
Janice Claire Clum, 63, passed away January 31, 2022, at Froedtert Hospital, following a valiant fight against cancer. She was surrounded by her three children and loving husband of 41 years.
Jan was born on February 15, 1958, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the third of seven children to Maurice and Lois (Tonning) Harig. Attending Catholic elementary and junior high school, she graduated from Union High School in 1976. After enrolling at Grand Valley State Colleges, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Special Education in 1981. While working at McDonald’s on Alpine Avenue, Jan met a Swing Manager, Douglas Clum, who was enraptured by her. They married on July 26, 1980.
After her graduation from Grand Valley, she was recruited by Del Fritchen and Clarence Bianco to teach children here in Racine. She began her career teaching primary students with emotional disabilities at Wind Point Elementary School. In 1997, she obtained a Master’s in Early Education from UW-Whitewater and moved to teach 4K students with special needs. She taught at Garfield, Red Apple, Jerstad-Agerholm, Julian Thomas, Knapp, and Wadewitz Elementary Schools, with wonderful principals, education assistants and regular education teaching partners. She finished her career in the role of Early Education Coordinator, a job she couldn’t wait to get to each day. She worked right up to the week before her passing. Jan was the finest teacher any school system could wish for. She was dedicated to her students and their families, committed to the school district and the Racine community, and absolutely tireless in fulfilling her sense of responsibility to her job. She secured funding and implemented a music therapy program in her classroom. Additionally, she initiated the development, funding and distribution of the children’s book, “Alexis and Anthony Go to Kindergarten,” by Alexander and Molly McNeece, a school readiness book highlighting Racine landmarks that was distributed free to all of the community’s 4-year-olds. She touched so many lives, young and old, and her legacy will continue for years.
Jan was a board member and enthusiastic supporter of the Friendship Clubhouse, was an active member of Visioning a Greater Racine as well as many other community groups. She belonged to Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church, where she was a member for nearly 30 years.
Along with teaching and her community work, Jan loved reading, music, dancing, knitting and cooking. She was a wonderful mother and “Ahma,” raising three remarkable children and doting on two beautiful grandchildren. Left to treasure the memories of her amazing life are her husband, Douglas Clum; their children Rachel (Steve) Schiele, Suzanne (fiancé Adam Mraz) Clum, 2ndLt Robert (Carson Pulda) Clum USMC; and grandchildren Elyse and Clayton Schiele. Jan is further survived by sister Learose (Tom) Ebels of Jenison, Michigan; brother-in-law Dr. Alan Havens of Greenville, Michigan; brother Troy (Mary) Harig of Spring Lake, Michigan; sisters Mary Harig of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Sara Bittenbender of West Elgin, Illinois; and Aunt Jan and Uncle Robert Harig, of Grand Rapids, Michigan; and finally, nieces, nephews, friends and colleagues dear to her but too numerous to name. Jan was preceded in death by her parents, older sister Barbara Havens, nephew Jonathon Havens, and youngest brother Maurice “Marty” Harig.
Jan lived life joyously and fully. She had a sparkling smile, a wonderful laugh, and she and Doug had a wonderful life together. She is deeply loved, left us much too soon, and will be terribly missed.
Visitation will be Saturday at the funeral home, 3-6 pm followed by a service at 6 pm.
The service will be livestreamed and may be viewed by by going to the funeral home website, select Jan's page, select service, and select livestream.
As told by Doug
(Inaccuracies and omissions are the result of an old man’s failing memory…)
Most of you know how private Jan was. Many of you didn’t know about her first battle with cancer, let alone its recurrence last fall. But her obituary only scratched the surface of what an amazing, resilient, tenacious, dedicated, conscientious, and loving daughter, sister, student, wife, mother, grandmother (forever “Ahma”) and, of course, educator, she was.
In her obituary I wrote, Jan was born on February 15, 1958, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the third of seven children to Maurice and Lois (Tonning) Harig. Attending Catholic elementary and junior high school, she graduated from Union High School in 1976. After enrolling at Grand Valley State Colleges, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Special Education in 1981. While working at McDonald’s on Alpine Avenue, Jan met a Swing Manager, Douglas Clum, who was enraptured by her. They married on July 26, 1980.
But that simple paragraph misses so very much of who Jan was and what helped form her. Her two older sisters were 11 and 9 years older than her. Then after that nine-year space, Jan was the oldest of four more siblings. So, in essence, she was both “middle child” and simultaneously “oldest child.” That family dynamic was complicated by the fact that her youngest brother, Marty, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 6, and struggled with significant mental health issues his entire life. Her life-long drive to help, educate, and support children with disabilities, especially those of a behavioral nature, was likely formed here.
Making a home up the hill from John Ball Park on the west side of Grand Rapids, Jan’s mother raised the family while her dad worked as a mechanic for the Chessie Systems railroad downtown. Shortly after Marty was born, Jan’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the eight-year battle she fought with the disease was both tragic and noble. Her mom died the year Jan was sixteen, a senior in high school. Her dad continued working, and four years later married the widow of a coworker. A few months after Jan and I started dating, her father passed away from a sudden heart attack. So Morrie had retired, remarried and died in the space of two weeks. Jan took over many of the household responsibilities at the age of 20, and this has always partly explained for me her resilience, independence, and drive.
Jan worked throughout college at McDonald’s, starting at the Michigan Street restaurant. She transferred to the store on Alpine Avenue in Walker, Michigan, and I can still see her standing by the fry station the night I met her. I can also hear her challenging me that same night when I assumed she was a rookie.
Though both her parents were gone, Jan planned our wedding with the help of her siblings. She was frugal and responsible about money, and that’s how she graduated from college with no student debt. We moved into a little apartment in Comstock Park, as she finished school and worked as a grocery store cashier. Though neither of us knew where it was, she was asked to interview for Racine schools in July, 1981. Jan began teaching in the portable classroom outside Wind Point Elementary. Her first educational assistant was Jenny Ticer, who was a great support and guide. While teaching emotionally disturbed primary children this first year, she met Deb Sell, a first-year teacher of children with learning disabilities. A life-long friendship grew, with Randy, Deb, Jan and I celebrating holidays and significant events together.
Jan was unfailing in her dedication to her work. Besides the work she did in the classroom, she spent hours in the evenings writing IEPs, lesson plans, and developing learning activities. Her devotion to Racine Unified School District and the community at large was based on the recognition that the school system had given us everything; friends, a home, and rewarding careers. When she got to Wadewitz, her last classroom experience, the children were not getting music in their school day. Jan immediately went to work to resolve that, and developed a Music Therapy program with Liz Seeger, her teaching partner, and Lisa Friedrich, a friend and licensed music therapist. This program was a great source of pride for Jan. Her development of the book project, “Alexis and Anthony Go to Kindergarten,” by Alexander and Molly McNeece, distributed free to all the community’s 4-year-olds each spring, placed a capstone on her teaching career and cemented her legacy as an educator of the highest order. In addition, she committed hours to the Friendship Clubhouse, Visioning a Greater Racine, Higher Expectations, and our church home, Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church.
When her friend and colleague, Joleen Carlson, retired from the position of Early Education Coordinator in 2019, Jan jumped at the opportunity to share her wisdom, experience, and knowledge with 4K teachers across the school district. She couldn’t wait to get to work every day!
Finally, raising our remarkable children—Rachel (1986), Suzanne (1989) and Robbie (1991)—gave her a joy that was so gratifying. She delighted in the kids’ music, their success in school, and finally, watching them grow into better adults than we could ever have wished for. Adding Steve Schiele to our family, as well as planning for Suzanne’s upcoming April marriage to Adam Mraz, has been utterly wonderful. Watching Robbie thrive and succeed as a U.S. Marine, while bringing Carson Pulda to our family, has given Jan a sense of peace and fulfillment that was so comforting in her final days. Most joyful of all, perhaps, was the birth of her two grandchildren, Elyse (2013), and Clayton (2015). Spending time reading with them, playing games, including them in her teaching activities, made her happiest of all. She truly rose so far above the losses she experienced in her youth, and we know she was happy and content as she fought at the end.
Her laugh. Her smile. Her drive to teach. Her nurturance of friends, colleagues, and family. We have been blessed by having Jan; sister, wife, soulmate, mother, Ahma, and consummate educator. We love her, love her, love her, and miss her just terribly. But she has left her family, her friends, our community, and the children in Racine, a much better place for having been here. Thank you for sharing your stories of Jan with us, and most of all for your support of our family.
Doug and the family profoundly thank the remarkable doctors and nurses who cared for Jan. Dr. Brittig and Dr. Jayaprakash of Ascension, and Dr. Yen, Dr. Kelly, and Dr. Chaudhury at Froedtert were patient, kind, informative and so amazingly competent. Froedtert nurses Patti, Angie, Lauren, Olivia, Elyse, Sarah, and others, along with all the staff at Froedtert Cancer Center and the MICU could not have been gentler and more empathetic as they attended to Jan and her increasing medical needs. We are forever grateful.
Janice Claire Clum, 63, passed away January 31, 2022, at Froedtert Hospital surrounded by her three children and loving husband of 41 years. Visitation will be Saturday, February 5, 2022 at the funeral home, 3-6 pm followed by a service at 6 pm.