Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of The Friends 2021 Vol. 1 - Page 21

sweet auburn | 2021 volume i
“ I consider myself so lucky to have known and worked with Janet Heywood when we were developing the Cemetery ’ s Master Plan . She always dug deep into whatever topics we were tackling and used the lens of history to think of new ways to see today ’ s issues . She was brilliant , curious , an inspiration to me , and a true original thinker . The world is dimmed without Janet in it .” — Liz Vizza

Janet Heywood ’ s Legacy

J anet was a critical member of the Mount Auburn team during my tenure as President , arriving just a few months after me . When she retired to return home to Ohio in 2006 , she left behind a wide array of physical and intellectual accomplishments that are still important today . She was an extraordinary personality and a very stimulating colleague for seventeen years . I ’ d like to share two stories that illustrate her wide interests and unique abilities and how they had long-lasting impact for Mount Auburn .

One day in 1996 after the winter snow had begun to recede , Director of Cemetery Operations Roger Kindred reported that the iconic bronze bas relief of a kneeling figure on the Torrey monument was missing . We were all horrified at losing a piece that was so important both symbolically and historically . That spring , Mount Auburn took part in the New England Flower Show , and Janet was there in her role as our interpretive expert . On the last day of the show , as our horticultural staff was breaking down the exhibit , Janet happened to pass a small antiques booth that was about to be taken down . Her sharp eyes spied our treasure tucked in the back holding open a cabinet door . She alerted the Massachusetts Horticultural Society staff who in turn contacted the police . After Janet persuaded them that the Cemetery was in fact the owner of the bronze and that it had been stolen , it was eventually returned to our care . She was probably the only staff member who had both the knowledge and the observational ability to spy our precious object displayed so unobtrusively .
That ability undoubtedly came from her lifelong love of birdwatching , which led on another occasion to a wonderful case of serendipity . Janet often met birdwatching groups at our front gate in the early morning to let them in , and one day she met an august Mass Audubon group led by the Society ’ s president . He complained of having to wait and Janet responded that we did not have enough staff to open the gates at an earlier hour . A woman in the group overheard this exchange and asked Janet whether the Cemetery needed money . As a result I had the pleasure for many years of giving the woman , who was a Trustee of a large family foundation , an annual grant proposal , which was funded every year without further discussion . That funding , among many other things over the years , allowed the Cemetery to purchase the state-of-the-art plant inventory system used by all major botanic gardens , advancing our horticultural efforts immeasurably . And I believe that younger generations of the family are still providing funding for Mount Auburn projects . Once again Janet , being the right person in the right place at the right time , advanced Mount Auburn ’ s cause .
Four additional examples of her legacy were the interpretive exhibit in Story Chapel , the audio tours that once guided visitors around the grounds , the revised edition of Blanche Linden ’ s Silent City on a Hill , and the designation of the Cemetery as a National Historic Landmark . Whatever the project , she challenged all of us with her intellectual vigor , deep historical understanding , creativity , and persistence , and the Cemetery is a more vibrant place as a result of her years with us .
— Bill Clendaniel President Emeritus
“ Janet Heywood was my boss at Mount Auburn from 1997 until she retired in 2006 . I have never ever met a more brilliant person in my lifetime . There is rarely a day of work at the Cemetery where she is not thought of , remembered , or quoted . If we aren ’ t looking back at all of her research , we are wondering how she would respond to something happening today . I hear her voice in my mind fairly regularly — all of the unique sayings she had . The best advice she ever gave me was , “ Keep your EYES to the SKY .” We had great fun while she was at Mount Auburn . She was like Obi-Wan Kenobi and a character from an Agatha Christie novel at the same time . Absolutely BRILLIANT . A brilliant mind . A brilliant light in this world . She touched many , many lives . And she did good work , important work while she was on this planet . Godspeed , Janet Heywood . Godspeed .” — Jennifer Johnston