Remembering One of our Own

by Valerie Passoa

I was more than fortunate to call Janice Stiefel a close friend. I initially made contact with her after reading an article she had written for the Wild Ones journal. It was one of the best things I ever did. I was struck immediately by her love of the natural world, her warmth, her generosity, and her willingness to share her knowledge and encourage others to pursue like interests. Janice graced this Earth for 72 years until her death on March 18, 2008.

Janice spent her childhood exploring the prairie around her home and playing with the “critters” she found. Throughout the changing years, Janice’s love of nature never waned. Early on, she concentrated on plants. In time, she accumulated over 1,000 type-written pages of notes and photos. After her dear children went off to college, Janice blossomed as a researcher, writer, photographer, speaker, and naturalist.

When her husband John retired, the Stiefel’s completed construction of their retirement home in Wisconsin called “Hidden Corners Sanctuary”. This “small piece of heaven” comprised 40-acres of land adjacent to a 2,500-acre Wisconsin State Wildlife Area. The property was protected from any future development due to a conservation easement with the Door County Land Trust.

After settling into her new home, Janice continued her research now emphasizing the life history of moths. Janice documented many new host plant records and had over 129 Door County moth records, all documented by the State. She was a former editor of Wisconsin Flora (published by the Botanical Club of Wisconsin), and since 1999, edited and contributed to the Wisconsin Entomological Society Newsletter. Janice’s eye for detail and sense of aesthetics made for newsletters that were impeccably edited and wonderfully diverse.

Janice’s passion produced many photographs. Those images are posted on two web sites. BugGuide showcases close to 800 images of immature and adult insects while the Moth Photographers Group represents 130 or so images of moth caterpillars and adults ( John Stiefel’s devotion to his wife will continue with the posting of 3,000 additional images over time.

Not surprisingly, Janice became nationally known for her expertise and spent many hours doing presentations, thus spreading her heart-felt enthusiasm for the plants and insects she loved so dearly. Janice also contributed photographs and data to several field guides. Never a “rearing snob”, Janice excitedly cultured any caterpillar she came across. As a matter of fact, people drove long distances to drop-off caterpillars to her, thus ensuring a future moth or butterfly.

Janice’s humility was evident in all she said and did. Always curious and eager to learn, she spent hours walking on the trails that she and her husband created on their property. She had a deep faith in God and knowing her the way I did, I am sure that her thanks for all that she accomplished would have been given to her Creator.

Janice, there are no words to describe how much you are missed. Your contributions will continue to enrich and inspire us always.