Although Beatrice Janowski was blessed with a beautiful singing voice that warmed the hearts of others, it will be her kind heart and passionate spirit that will be so dearly missed. Bea was a dedicated employee in the banking business for many years who also greatly valued her family, many of whom were scattered in lands abroad. She was a woman of great strength whose quest to recover carried her through various health challenges throughout the last several years of her life.
The latter half of the 1940s was a time for America to reunite after many servicemen returned from overseas after WWII, just as Bea’s father would do. The radio had become a lifeline for Americans providing news, entertainment, and popular music of the day which included songs from Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Dinah Shore. It was in the year 1948 that in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, John and Claudine “Clara” (Scardina) Ilovshek were pleased to announce the birth of their first child, daughter Beatrice Frances, on December 10th. Beatrice, or Bea as she was often called, came from a family with a rich heritage as her father was Slovenian and her mother was Italian. Bea was raised in the family home on the south side of Milwaukee where she was joined in her family by her brother Robert when she was four years old. Family played an important role in Bea’s life from an early age. She spent much time during the summer months visiting her mother’s family, the Scardinas, in Chicago, Illinois. During her visits she would often babysit for many of her younger cousins, and she greatly valued that she was able to form close relationships with her family. Bea was also able to immerse herself in her family heritage through the relationship she shared with her grandmother.
For her education, Bea attended St. Mary’s Academy, a high school for young women, then went on to Alverno College, also located in Milwaukee. In college, Bea majored in French which allowed her to study abroad in France for one year. Her time there proved to be a mixed experience with one of the highlights being that she was able to discover her mother’s family in France and Italy. Bea’s time in France also set up future plans for her and “Grandma Scardina” to visit those relatives in France as well as their native Italy. By the time her college years were completed, Bea not only majored in French but she also minored in music, with an emphasis on voice, an art she was truly passionate about.
After college, Bea worked in sales for various companies with a variety of products. Her work took her to both Michigan and Chicago for a time, and being near her family was one of the main reasons she ended up in Chicago. Bea didn’t remain in Chicago for long, however, as she returned to Milwaukee in the early 80″s. Her father had suffered a stroke, and Bea was needed to help her family in caring for her father. Bea ended up taking a position with First Bank where she worked behind the scenes as an item processor. She remained with the bank’s back office after the department was purchased by Fiserv.
While she was busy building her career back in Milwaukee, Bea’s life headed in a new direction with a familiar face. His name was Richard “Rick” Janowski, and they had actually known each other throughout almost their entire lives. Rick was five years her junior and had been friends with Bea’s younger brother Robert. The two boys went to school together and Rick was always over at the Ilovshek’s home. Although Bea and Rick had little interest in one another during those younger years, that was about to change when Bea was in her thirties. Rick had become the local manager of a tax preparation chain and would prepare tax returns for both Bea and her father, and so their connection continued. Then Rick’s family hosted a 30th birthday party for him and Bea was invited. This party marked the beginning of their romantic relationship which continued to grow over the following three years. Toward the end of 1985, Bea indicated to Rick that she thought it was time to take the next step, and that she expected a ring on her finger before the end of the year. Rick decided to let her wait – all the way until January 1, 1986 at 12:02 a.m.! They were married on July 19, 1986, when Bea was 38 years old.
As a newlywed, Bea continued to work in the banking business and she also continued to pursue interests she enjoyed. Bea always had a deep love for music and was even a talented musician herself. She played the organ and piano, but her first love was voice. In fact, she was frequently hired as a vocalist at weddings, including for many of her friends. Bea was always fascinated by opera music and although she generally didn’t sing opera herself, she truly enjoyed listening to this type of music.
Bea’s challenges began in her 50th year when she developed uterine cancer. She fought the disease with everything she had, but unfortunately, after four cancer-free years, she developed congestive heart failure. For most of 2004 as well as the first six months of 2005, Bea was either hospitalized or getting rehabilitation in a nursing home. She nearly died on several occasions during that time, but no matter what health challenges she faced, Bea always remained focused on getting better so she could return home to Rick. Now permanently disabled, Bea began the last chapter of her life. Always viewing her glass as half-full rather than empty, Bea threw herself into the craft works that she had enjoyed years earlier. With the help of Community Care for the Elderly, Bea took to knitting, plastic canvass, beading and more. In fact, CCE was a life boat carrying her on her final journey. However, Bea’s health problems continued to mount and while she struggled bravely, she was fighting a battle she couldn’t win.
To Bea Janowski, nothing was greater than sharing love with her family whether they were separated by distances near or far. She was a hard-working woman who could warm any room with her delightful singing voice. Bea was blessed to discover that the love of her life was really someone she had known all along, and together they shared 23 years of marriage. Even when the unrelenting storms of life continued to blow her way, Bea remained strong, unwavering in her plight to recover. She will be dearly missed and warmly remembered by all those she leaves behind.
Beatrice F. Janowski died on September 15, 2009. Bea’s family includes her husband, Richard Janowski, and numerous other family and friends. Bea was preceded in death by her brother, Robert (Sharon) Ilovshek. Family and friends will gather Wed. September 23 at the Funeral Home from 5:00 p.m. until time of the Memorial Service at 7:00 p.m. Private Inurnment Holy Cross Cemetery. Suminski Family Funeral Homes, Niemann / Suminski, 414-744-5156. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can leave a favorite memory or photo, or sign the online guestbook.
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