Janet Wilcox was not one of those people who wanted to make a name for herself or be in the paper. She was well known, however, as the consummate volunteer at places like the Lodi Police Department, Lodi Public Library, People Assisting Lodi Shelter and the American Cancer Society.
Wilcox, a Lodi resident since 1956, died Jan. 30 after a brief bout with cancer. She was 94.
Wilcox’s volunteerism was legendary. She would drive cancer patients as far as Sacramento for doctor’s appointments, temporarily take in dogs until they were adopted, help out at the library, staff the Lodi Memorial Hospital gift shop and the hospital’s medical library, and serve the police department in any way she could.
“We loved her to pieces,” Lodi Health spokeswoman Carol Farron said. “We really admired her. She lived life on her own terms. She lived a long, happy life.”
Farron said that Lodi Health officials met her in early 2006, when a neighborhood meeting was held to describe plans to add the Lodi Memorial Hospital’s south wing.
“She asked a lot of great questions,” Farron said. “She was a really smart lady.”
Farron was so impressed that she asked Wilcox and Ray Karker to be the hospital’s “south wing ambassadors.” For a year and a half, Wilcox and Karker showed plans and explained to visitors what the south wing project was about.
Once her volunteer duties promoting the south wing expansion project were completed, Wilcox continued volunteering at the hospital.
She worked as a clerk in the hospital gift shop, which required her to learn how to use the computerized cash register.
Wilcox also helped create the hospital’s lending library, so that patients and visitors would have something to read. Through her volunteer efforts at the Lodi Public Library, she collected books the library planned to throw out or couldn’t sell during Friends of the Library fundraisers and brought them to the hospital, her daughter-in-law Judy Wilcox said.
“She would show up here with brown bags full of books — sometimes it would be a cartful,” Farron said.
Born May 11, 1918 in Oregon, Wilcox moved to California at the age of 3. She grew up in Fresno and Shaver Lake before moving to San Francisco, where she met Richard L. Wilcox. They were busy in his pursuits, including Rotary, and they enjoyed extensive traveling and their houseboat on the Delta.
After her husband’s death in 1988, Wilcox stepped up her volunteerism. She joined the Lodi Police Partners, where volunteers 50 and older help perform duties that don’t require a sworn officer. They patrol city streets, parks and schools, perform clerical assignments, help with traffic control, staff the front desk at the police station and help out at special events.
Wilcox cleaned up donated teddy bears for the police officers to give to children who had experienced a traumatic event, Judy Wilcox said. Janet Wilcox was named police volunteer of the year in 2002.
A police volunteer for 18 years, Wilcox helped out until three months ago.
On Nov. 9, 2012, Wilcox became ill from medication, but came to the station anyway. She was sent home because she was so ill.
“She kept saying, ‘I’m going to get better and come back,’ but that didn’t happen,” Judy Wilcox said.
“Partners had a surprise 90th birthday party for her,” her daughter-in-law recalls. “She was embarrassed to tears but loved every moment of it. She was a very private person in that she didn’t want attention to herself.”
Wilcox was an avid reader and sewed extensively.
“She made everything that she wore basically,” her daughter-in-law said.
Wilcox also exercised daily at Twin Arbors Athletic Club and participated in a bowling league, so she didn’t have much time for TV.
“Once in a while she watched ‘Jeopardy’ and ‘Wheel of Fortune,’” Judy Wilcox said. “We sometimes watched ‘The Lawrence Welk Show’ because we like the music.”
She is survived by her children, Mark of North Carolina and Robin of Alaska; grandchildren, Sheri Wallace of Virginia and Ray Ross of Oregon; two great-grandchildren and a goddaughter.
A potluck celebration of Wilcox’s life will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. March 1 at the Lodi Public Library community room, 201 W. Locust St.
“She was a great woman,” Farron said. “She was no-nonsense, and you could count on her for anything.”
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.