Janice Ayres: ‘She was an advocate for everybody.’
Janice Ayres left ’em laughing and near tears on Friday, a day that others spent celebrating her life and paying tribute to her commitments in private and public life.
The Carson City social services activist, who died at 92 on Memorial Day, was venerated at First Presbyterian Church for her work helping people; a four-year term on the Board of Supervisors; and many more years as executive director of Nevada Rural Counties RSVP, also known as the Retired and Seniors Volunteer Program.
Bob Hadfield, former Nevada Association of Counties executive director, called Ayres an incredible human being whose love extended even to those who didn’t agree with her.
He said there aren’t many people like her — someone who can stand with folks and yet tower above people.
“She wasn’t just an advocate for the elderly,” he said. “She was an advocate for everybody. She was a gentle giant. She had principle beyond reproach.”
Rev. Bruce Kochsmeier, senior pastor, officiated at the service and quoted Proverbs 31 as his way of capturing her essence: “She opens her hands to the poor.”
Janice R. Ayres, born in Idaho on Jan. 23, 1921, earned dual master’s degrees in business administration and mass communications from the University of Southern California. She was one of Walt Disney’s original employees and helped open Disneyland. After years as a successful businesswoman, she entered social services work.
She was the executive director of the RSVP effort that bears her stamp from 1979 until her death, widening its scope from five to 15 Nevada counties.
She not only served a term on the Board of Supervisors, but gave of her time on various other boards and committees. She won recognition and awards from a host of admirers in government and various organizations throughout her career.
During the service, large screens with photographs from Ayres’ life in private and public situations flashed overhead at the front and back of the church.
Included were shots of her, sometimes wearing her signature large and dark-framed glasses; a couple showed her with libations in hand; a couple of others showed her holding babies.
Some shots showed her love affair with the V&T Railway, many were with family, friends or associates, but almost all were graced with her trademark smile for the camera and posterity.
Among those attending Friday’s service were members of political, government or social services organizations, along with family members; all were invited afterward to a reception at Adele’s Restaurant and Lounge, which is owned and operated by Charlie and Karen Abowd.
A letter expressing condolences from U.S. Sen. Harry Reid was read because he wasn’t able to attend.
“Janice was a woman who made a positive impression on everyone she met,” Reid wrote. He also said her “legacy of good works will never be far from our hearts.”