Cover photo for Janis Woolbright's Obituary
1958 Janis 2023

Janis Woolbright

February 27, 1958 — January 6, 2023

Janis Carol Woolbright was born in North Bend, Oregon, on February 27,

1958, and was adopted two days later by the late Charles and Esther

Hilliker of Lake Oswego, Ore. From a young age she was a voracious

reader (having taught herself to read at age 4), had a keen mind for

science, and read her multi-volume children's encyclopedia set cover

to cover numerous times. She sprouted whole seeds from her mother's

spice shelf and concocted "beauty products" from scavenged lotions and

perfumes. When she was 4 her family moved to Salem, Ore., and later to

Meridian, Ida., finally returning to Lake Oswego. She attended Waluga

Jr. High School, and graduated from Lakeridge High School in 1976.

She attended Northwest Nazarene College (now University) in Nampa,

Ida., in majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry. She was the

chemistry department secretary and a proofreader for the college

newspaper. Although "only" a biology major, she received the highest

grade in both her theology class and in her class on the Epistle to

the Romans. She took an upper division church history class required

for history majors and religion majors, taking the high grade in that

class as well. She graduated magna cum laude in 1980, along with

fellow biology major, best friend, and future husband Jim Woolbright,

with whom she fell in love at the end of her sophomore year. Jim, on

first meeting Janis, dismissed her as "too squirrelly," but the two

soon formed a deep friendship which lasted the rest of her life. They

shared almost all of their interests in common. Jim and Janis married

in 1981 after Janis completed an advanced degree in medical technology

from Boise State University. Interestingly, while an undergrad she

was a student in a Spanish class that Jim taught, and then later had

Jim as a student; Janis, who could make a better blood smear on a

glass slide than anyone on earth, taught one of Jim's hematology labs

while he was in his professional program.

They spent the first year of their marriage in Richland, Wash., where,

after passing her national and state board exams, Janis worked in a

hospital as medical technologist and night-shift clinical pathology

lab supervisor. For the next four years, while Jim completed a

doctoral degree at Washington State University, she was a technologist

in research labs (ruminant nutrition and tick cell culture) and a

medical technologist in the veterinary college's clinical pathology

lab. Janis managed their household finances by frugal living,

shopping sales and promotions, and by being an extreme

coupon-and-refunder. In fact, while at Pullman she taught a class on

couponing and refunding.

Janis was active in church her whole life. In Pullman, and later in

Enterprise, Oregon, she and Jim were co-youth pastors. She and Jim

often sang duets and both sang in choirs and small groups. She had a

beautiful soprano voice, but also sang alto according to a choir’s


In the following years, Janis' two children, Betsy and James, were

born, and the family moved to McMinnville, Oregon. Holding her baby

girl in her arms, she resolved to be a stay-at-home mom and to

homeschool her children. Her homeschooling methods drew from her own

childhood experience of the wonder and excitement of learning, and

included deep dives into unit studies, many field trips, and hands-on

instruction in practical skills like gardening and canning.

Even with her full-time job as a wife and mother, Janis continued her

practice of service, taking an active role in the children's Bible

club AWANA and co-founding a chapter of the homeschool group ELT

(Enjoy Learning Together), which grew quickly and continues to this

day. Forfeiting a conventional career, Janis invested herself in the

lives of her own children and others. Her care and concern for

children extended to the preborn while she worked tirelessly to raise

funds for the local crisis pregnancy center and later served as a

volunteer counselor after moving to Idaho. A well-informed woman of

strong convictions, she also served as precinct committee person and

as secretary of the Yamhill County Republican Central Committee, and

was on a first name basis with many elected officials.

Janis' passion for learning was not limited to educating her children.

She was forever reading about meteorology, astronomy, ornithology, and

everything else. She continued her own education through classes

given by the county Extension Office and became a USDA-Certified

Master Food Preserver and USDA-Certified Master Gardener. She was an

accomplished seamstress and loved making baby quilts for new babies in

church or in her extended family. She made counted cross-stitch

pictures and was an avid birdwatcher. She won many ribbons for her

plants, canned goods, and handicrafts in county fairs. She also

dabbled in rubber stamping and cardmaking, but it would not be until

her last decade of life that this hobby would fully blossom.

In 1999, her family moved to Woodland, Idaho, where she had space for

her many cats and a flock of backyard chickens (whom she loved as

pets), and room to set up a real garden, where she raised vegetables

and flowers and seedling plants to sell at the farmers' market. When

she finished homeschooling her own children, she began tutoring local

students in math, biology, and chemistry.

Janis loved participating in the Valley Singers and Bell Choir until

she began losing her voice in 2019. She remained active in her

beloved Woodland Friends Church, playing the piano and serving on

various service committees. Her involvement in children's ministries

included serving as a camp counselor at ALACCA; teaching Sunday

school, children's church, and Vacation Bible School, and the

organization of summer reading programs. She was known for bringing

her homemade banana bread to church every week, organizing craft days,

and her handmade greeting cards, which she sold on a donation basis,

the proceeds of which went to the local Hope Center after she was

unable to continue as a volunteer.

She was a sensible woman whose great intelligence and wisdom were

veiled by a gentle humility. Many facets of her living conditions --

crowded living in an unfinished house; her husband's frequent

extended absences for work; her poor health, would, for most people

have been material for complaint, but complaints and bitterness were

not in her nature. Though she and her husband Jim enjoyed each

other's company above anyone else's, she patiently endured his work

trips and treasured his nightly phone calls, which sometimes lasted

over two hours. She was a patient listener who always gave time for

those in need and who gave her full attention with no interruptions.

Her began health declining around 2012, but rather than succumb to

discouragement or bitterness, she quietly embraced her trials with

joy. Mirroring the Lord Jesus Christ, her patience, her heart for

serving others, her compassion and empathy for the hurting and

sorrowing, her quiet humility, her kindness and gentleness, her

indefatigable joy and cheerfulness, her refusal to complain, hid from

the public her great physical suffering. She was a woman of regular

Bible reading and constant prayer, and whose life was a testimony to

the transforming work of Christ, and was a person of complete

integrity, being exactly the same person at home as in public view.

As her health continued to falter, she continued to keep busy, working

in her garden as she was able (until she finally retired from it last

year), and returned to her old interest in cardmaking and

papercrafting, which became her most satisfying hobby and occupied her

last years. She entered her greeting cards in contests on the

internet and won many prizes and delighted in sending them to friends

both online and offline. Her most successful venture was the annual

Cat Lovers Hop that she created and hosted on her blog, which drew

entries from cardmakers all around the world.

On January 6, 2023, after a difficult month's battle with presumed flu

complications atop her cardiac and other conditions, and an

unrelenting, ravaging cough that had lasted for weeks and weakened

her, she apparently died in her sleep, called home by her precious

Lord Jesus Christ. Janis was faithful when tried in the furnace of

tribulation and emerged shining, pure, and glorified; a triumphant

runner receiving her crown of victory.

She was preceded in death by her mother, Esther Hilliker; father,

Charles Hilliker; and son-in-law, Gerald Burns. She is survived by her

brother, Tim (Cheryl) Hilliker of Portland, Oregon; her husband, Jim

Woolbright; daughter, Betsy (Dusty) Woolbright-Birch; son, James

Woolbright; and grandchildren, Andrea Burns and Miles Birch, all of

Woodland, Idaho; and her mother-in-law Jane Woolbright, sisters-in-law

Polly Silva and Connie Woolbright, all of Kennewick, Washington.

Funeral service will be at 11:00 AM Saturday January 21, 2023, at St.

Catherine's Catholic church in Kamiah, Idaho, with a catered dinner

following. Graveside service and burial in Woodland, Idaho will

follow Sunday morning worship at Woodland Friends Church. In further

celebration of her life, all are invited to bring snacks, desserts,

finger foods, board games to a traditional "game night" of fellowship

at 5:00 PM Sunday in the Woodland Friends Church. Trenary Funeral

Home of Kooskia, Ida. is assisting with arrangements.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Janis Woolbright, please visit our flower store.

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