Edward Michael Janis

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Sep 29, 1910 – Aug 05, 1999


Born Hatfield, 1910. His Father (Michael) died in Hatfield from influenza epidemic (WWI period) when “people dying like flies”. Father worked for the Billings family, tobacco field hand and lived in a house owned by the Billings. Had to leave when father died, went to Hadley (West St) in an upstairs apt. Had 1 year school in Hatfield, 2 yrs in Hadley; Mother went on to Detroit and married Waskiewicz & had a son Joseph…young EMJ had scarlet fever and measles. On to Cleveland (around age 8), then Hartford, CT where he went to St. Joseph’s parachial school; then Stamford, CT where he graduated at the age of 13 from the 8th grade at Rice School. Many, many years later while at a cocktail party in New Canaan, was in a group of men who were bragging about where they went to college…”I went to Princeton, etc.” Turned to Ed and asked “where did you go?” He answered, “Rice”. They said oh that’s a great school, and he added, “I mean Rice Elementary in Stamford” and walked away…leaving mouths openwide!! He was so comfortable with himself.
After Rice, he went to work at the Modern Grocery at age 15. At age 17, they closed the Bedford St. store and moved to Cos Cobb. Dad left and went to Bedford. His mother cried “Edju, Edju” because he said he couldn’t go to college…”I’m gonna go to work”.
She gave him $24.00 and he went to Chicopee (MA) to visit Aunt Pasternak (Polish phonetics=aunt in Polish is chau-chau). He just went there and knocked on the door and told her who he was! Pasternak was his Father’s Mother’s name. After that, became a shipping clerk for National Bisquit Co. (worked 80 hrs a week for $12/wk). Then went to New York/New Haven Railroad in charge of all freight cars. Then the A&P Grocery Store, then to First National Grocery store in New Canaan as Manager (age 21 or 22). Transferred to Glenbrook as mgr and then went to Bedford St. to Bedford Food Market as Asst. Mgr. That’s where Dad was asked to be in Victoria Gavel and Joe Rogowski’s wedding. He asked who his partner would be and when told Lillian Poltrack, he said “Oh yes, you bet”. Finally to Gristede’s (they came to get him) as Asst Mgr in Stamford, and then made Mgr in New Canaan (27 years old). Married in 1936. Built up to be best store in the company. In 1945, left Gristede Bros. to open his own store at 31 Elm St. named Edward M. Janis, Inc. in New Canaan. It was a haberdashery/sporting goods store initially and catered to tailor made men’s suits, sports supplies. Phased out sports supplies and added women’s when sister Marcia went to high school. It became known as a meeting place for “town father’s” and dignitaries (i.e. Jack Sterling of radio fame and “Big Top Circus” would come in dailly. Served as Twon Treasurer during this time. “They” put in a pot bellied stove in the rear of the store to add to the flavor and met around it every morning and evening for years. Became known as “Club 31”. Sold the store in 1969 after 24 years (as big department stores moved out to the suburbs from NYC, i.e. Bloomingdale’s). Became Deputy Sheriff of Fairfield County in July 1969.
Finally, at age of 65, became the only New Canaan Parking Officer (a job created for him, because he didn’t want to be retired). Became Mgr of the Parking Authority of N.C. at 75 and retired ag age 82 – 1992 – 14 years there.
Had a magnificent voice…quality AND volume. In his “store” years, got talked into performing with the local Town Players. His most noted part was Charlie Cowell, the anvil salesman, in “The Music Man” with Jack Sterling. Best line from the show, “ya gotta know the territory”! became oft used in the family. Always got singing going at parties and famous for his rendition of “Ham n’ Eggs” and “I Love You Truly”. In the days of the Roger Smith Inn in N.C. would be called up by the piano player to sing something and get the crowd going for singalongs. Once said if he could do his life over & he had the money, he’d have gone to Italy and studied opera (must be where daughter Marcia’s love of opera came from). Could’ve been a Pavarotti with his volume and quality. If you knew him at alll, you knew he was a loyal St. Louis Cardinal fan and loved his Polish, Stan “the man” Musial. One of his favoriate stories was of traveling by train with Izzy Cohen, Julius Groher and other friends to World Series in St. Louis, MO. He was Chairman of the Heart Fun in 1950, and was member of Knights of Columbus (until they refused admission of a friend), President of N.C. Fire Company, Pres. of Pooinsetta Club, member of the Gridiron Club, founding member of Little League; awarded the EMJanis Trophy to outstanding student/ athelete of high school each year; chaired Heart Fund.
Attended Mass daily and his morning prayers took at least 1/2 hour…when asked what his prayers were, he said he prayed for everyone, by name, that he has known who is deceased. Just added names and prayed for them in order. An amazing man of such simple, true faith. In 2003, 3 years after his passing, grandson Billy attended a christian marriage reinforcement weekend with many references to the bible and christianity. He said he kept thinking of his grandpa..”my grandfather did that” or “my grandfather was like that”…a true Christian.
When he turned 18 his mother gave him alot of money she had been saving for him. He took a 2 week trip with the Gavel boys to Baltimore, Washington. He only lasted one day. Came back to Stamford with $100 and went to Hadley to see family that had been so good to them – Joe Wanczyk on the farm. Joe advised him to settle down, which he did.
In 1999, after several years of asthma, which was sometimes misperscribed with inhalants, etc., he was diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and given an electric inhaler w/meds to use when having breathing distress. Also had beginning stages of Parkinsons. One night he woke and couldn’t breathe. Lil plugged in inhaler. He tried, put it down and said, “it’s not working, I’m going to die”. She called 911, and said “let’s say a Hail Mary while we wait”. Together they said that beautiful prayer and just at the end, after “…now and at the hour of our death, Amen”…she looked over and his mouth fell open and he was gone. Such a beautiful way for him to pass away. – Cynthia Northgraves


6 thoughts on “Edward Michael Janis

  1. What a wonderful memoir. I most clearly remember Ed singing Ham and Eggs with others, including my grandfather, Anthony. I can hear his voice in my mind still, all these years later.


  2. The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as “Spanish Flu” or “La Grippe” the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster.


  3. Great tribute….I really enjoyed….and the pics are some that I have not seen…If I can figure it out I will post some of mine as before we left SDt. Helena I had a college girl from down the street scan all 104 photo albums of mine……Cathy


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