Janet Rose Mordecai was born in Denver in 1942. She attended Englewood High School and the University of Colorado where she earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She had four major careers in her 79 years on Earth. She started out as a nurse, adding a second full-time job as a mother, before retiring to become both a philanthropist and a grandmother of 7. She was a die-hard Nuggets fan, especially TR Dunn. She was a bit talkative. She was very important.
She spent her career taking care of everyone around her. She began her nursing career working in reproductive health programs in rural Colorado. She traveled halfway around the world to serve as a nurse on the SS Hope medical ship in Tunisia. She came back, married Dan Mordecai, had two fantastic stepdaughters, and then spent the next few years as a nurse at Denver General Hospital.
She then took a break to have two wonderful sons, who really took her for granted growing up. Her husband, a successful but risk-taking serial entrepreneur, tried to start a variety of different businesses, eventually succeeding with his nursing recruitment agency.
She provided care at Porter Hospital as a rehabilitation nurse until her retirement in 2000. In 2002, the love of her life, after finally achieving enough success with her business to allow her to take his retirement, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died about six months later. She sold her business and created the Daniel and Janet Mordecai Foundation. She had very clear priorities. Fund cancer research, love gardens, support future nurses, help children, ensure young people get college degrees, and improve palliative care. Janet was later diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer.
Janet funded; Pancreatic Cancer Research, Denver Botanical Gardens Kindergarten, and Thyroid Cancer Research (hoping to see more grandchildren). It funded nursing scholarships for rural nurses, so that these rural communities could retain qualified health personnel. She funded immigrant rights groups so that people who wanted to contribute to our society could do so. She funded housing for medical staff at Paul Newman’s Hole-in-the-wall camp in Colorado and the Roundup River Ranch. She funded alopecia research to help children who struggled with the same challenges as one of her grandsons struggled growing up. She funded DNA research for the Innocence Project, which ended up getting three men off death row. She funded new young entrepreneurs at the University of Denver. She funded journalism at Rocky Mountain PBS. She funded youth development at the Boys & Girls Club in the San Luis Valley. His legacy has spread to countless organizations, far too many to name. And most important to her lasting legacy, she funded research and support for the Denver Hospice to ensure that others could have a more peaceful and supportive journey to the end when the time came. And his.
Heart disease did not take her away. Thyroid cancer couldn’t stop him. But a pair of ill-fitting shoes did. She stumbled into her modest ranch home, suffering severe head trauma. After a month of trying to recover, she realized it wasn’t in the cards. She spent her final week living as comfortably as possible at Denver Hospice in peaceful tranquility, surrounded by friends and loved ones, going out on her own terms. She ended her journey on March 9, 2022, 50 feet from the nurse’s station named in her honor.
Janet is survived by her sister Rita Conley, her sons, Adam Mordecai (Heather) and Ryan Mordecai (Alison Mendenhall), her stepdaughters, Julie Mordecai, Betsy Mordecai Heyman (Gareth) and her grandchildren, Sarah Sellman, Noah Sellman-(their father George Sellman), Stone Heyman, Riley Mordecai, Charlie Mordecai, Ryder Mordecai and Lola Mordecai.
A shwake (Shiva/wake) will be held in his honor on Monday March 13 and Tuesday March 14 from noon to 8 p.m. at Janet’s. There will be a celebration of life on June 5 at the Denver Botanical Gardens Kindergarten. In lieu of flowers, please bring your Janet stories and make sure you have created your advance directive. Janet would also appreciate directing this money towards donations to Denver Hospice, Roundup River Ranch, Pancreatic Cancer Society, Innocence Project, Jewish Family Services and La Puente.
Published by Denver Post on March 13, 2022.