Josephine Belle Janifer departed this earthly life on Friday, July 13, 2018, in the Montclair home where she grew up. She leaves a remarkable legacy of love and service. She was born on Friday, November 13, 1925, to Eva Cecil Johnson Belle and John Belle. Jo, as she was affectionately called by her friends and family, enjoyed an active childhood, including tennis and swimming, and she never lost her interest in tennis. One of her enduring pleasures was watching professional tennis matches on the television.
Josephine attended the public schools in Montclair and graduated from Montclair High School. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Upsala College and a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Pittsburgh. She married Clarence Sumner Janifer, Jr., an oceanographer, on January 28, 1950. She and Clarence had three children, Lynne, Allison and Mark. Unfortunately, Clarence died prematurely, but Josephine persevered and successfully raised their three children on her own.
Josephine somehow managed to have an extraordinary career as well. She was a counselor for the Newark Job Corp. and then, in 1965, she became the Executive Director of the Newark Pre-School Council, a community based program which serviced over 30,000 Newark youngsters and their families. She later became the first Director of the Newark Private Industry Council, an employment and training partnership of public and private concerns assisting economically disadvantaged, unemployed Newark residents. She served as the Director for thirteen years, until her retirement in 1992.
She also found the time to be a community volunteer. Josephine served as the President of the Newark Public Library Board of Trustees, was one of the first women to serve on the Board of Trustees of Blue Shield of New Jersey and was President and a member of the Auxiliary of the Crippled Children’s Hospital. She also served on the boards of the United Way of Essex and West Hudson, the Essex County Human Services Advisory Council, the Essex County Advisory Board for Handicapped Citizens, the Institute Advisory Council, the Teen Power House Advisory Board, the Mental Health Association of Essex County, Catholic Community Services, the Home and School Association of Branch Brook School and the Bruce Street School for the Deaf. She also was a member of the Phillis Wheatley Literary Club and Alpha Kappa Alpha, Incorporated sorority.
By any measure, Josephine Belle Janifer was an extraordinary woman. The Mayor of Newark and representatives from Prudential Insurance Company, the Port Authority of NY & NJ, New Jersey Transit, the New Jersey Department of Labor and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey spoke at the celebration of her retirement from the Newark Private Industry Council. Her retirement tribute culminated in the following observation:
“Throughout her life Mrs. Janifer continually worked
to improve the quality of life for many, many Newark residents.
Her commitment to service goes far beyond the normal boundaries of human accomplishment.”
But Josephine was also much more than a civic leader and community servant. She touched many more lives than even her resume reflects. She opened her home and her heart generously, and she was a devoted mother, grandmother and aunt. Her spirit, her light and her love will be greatly missed.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her sister, Martha Belle Williams, and her husband, Clarence Sumner Janifer, Jr. She leaves behind her three children, her daughter, Lynne Janifer Palmore (and her husband Rick), her daughter Allison Belle Janifer, and her son, Mark Sumner Janifer (and his wife Karen), her grandchildren, Jordan Matthews, Adam Palmore, Clark Janifer, Evan Janifer and Brett Janifer, and nephews, cousins and friends.
Her memory will be cherished forever.