Cover photo for Janet Scarrow's Obituary
Janet Scarrow Profile Photo

Janet Scarrow

August 28, 1933 — March 5, 2023


Janet Scarrow

In the early morning on March 5, 2023, Janet Scarrow, after weeks of declining strength and interest in her own world, died. Janet was born in Chicago on August 28, 1933, the first child of Louise and Robert Sellman. Growing up amidst her family in western Los Angeles, and nourished by that city’s progressive schools, Janet became the intellectual and concerned person she was when she graduated from University High in 1950.  

Three months later Janet had become a freshman in Radcliffe, the women’s college adjacent to the campus full of Harvard men. In the course of her freshman year she was attracted to a graduate student in Harvard’s Philosophy Department. The attraction was mutual. By the end of her second year she was engaged to David Scarrow, and before the beginning of her Senior Year, in August 1953 they were married. The following June Janet received her BA. She went on to earn an MA from Boston University’s School of Education.

In 1956 Janet and David migrated from Cambridge to Northampton where Janet would teach at Hopkins Academy in Hadley and David would profess philosophy at Smith College. Three years later Janet’s career as a teacher ended when Robert was born in May 1959. But of course Janet never stopped teaching.

In 1961 her family moved to Kalamazoo, a city perfectly suited for Janet’s tastes, talents, commitments. At first her projects were mostly domestic: cooking, cleaning, fixing, gardening, each done with her eye to perfection even as she was carrying the baby that would be born in August 1962.Thus she would mother her son and daughter as they made their way from kindergarten through high school and their departures for college.

Yet even in those years Janet committed herself beyond her home. At First Baptist Church she taught the morning Bible class. Eventually she became the church’s Moderator. And as a committed Democrat she campaigned for Howard Wolpe and even ran for County Clerk. Most lasting was Janet’s involvement in the Kalamazoo League of Women Voters for which she served two terms as President.

In 1979, with Susan in high school and Robert away at college, Janet took a position as Assistant to Dick Burke, Dean of Continuing Education at Western Michigan University. During her interesting and fulfilling fourteen years in this job she was active in the WMU Clerical/Technical Organization, serving as its president in 1987.

After retirement, Janet continued to be active in Kalamazoo community and church organizations advocating for environmental protection and fair access to housing.  She also was active as a volunteer and participant in the Chautauqua community of Bay View, Michigan where she and David spent many wonderful summers since 1990.

Janet is survived by her husband David, children Robert and Susan, daughter-in-law Hilary Barrett, grandson Samuel, and siblings Richard and Linda Sellman; she was preceded in death by her parents and brother John Sellman. Memorial services will be held at First Presbyterian Church, Kalamazoo, 1 p.m. May 19 and in Bay View, Michigan, 2 pm July 22.  In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Hope for Creation (, or send check with memo “Hope for Creation” to Michigan IPL, 1950 Trumbull, Detroit, MI 48216).

Past Services

Memorial Service

Friday, May 19, 2023

Starts at 1:00 pm (Eastern time)

First Presbyterian Church

321 W South St, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

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Memorial Service

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Starts at 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

Bay View, Michigan

Bay View, MI 49770

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