Janet Mae Parker Szymakowsi of Phillipston died on August 26. She was 78.

She was born on January 9, 1944 in Gardner to Ora Mae and Frederick Parker. She married Stanley Szymakowsi and together they had five children who were her greatest treasures. She was happiest being with her family, outside tending her gardens, or traipsing through her woods.

She was loved by all who met her. Family and friends remember her delicious cooking, which she generously shared, her beautiful gardens, her love of learning and her passion for rare books.

She was a natural teacher. She openly shared her knowledge of plants, animals and cooking, but mostly about life.

This drive to teach is what brought her to the Island to help homeschool and care for six of her grandchildren growing up in Vineyard Haven. For several years, after Janet’s husband’s death in 2007, she would travel to the Island each week to help homeschool her grandchildren. Her daughter Lisa and her family looked forward to Grammy’s arrival each Monday morning. Janet would scoop up the younger ones and take them on adventures to Polly Hill, Felix Neck and the library. On the way, in true grandparent style, Janet would stop off at the Scottish Bakehouse for a hazelnut coffee for herself and let her grandchildren pick out a baked treat for themselves.

She encouraged her grandchildren in all that they did. She showed unconditional love to them and all those around her.

During her final days at UMass Worcester University Hospital, she called each nurse an angel. At the end of her stay, the nurses started to call Janet, “angel” and “rockstar.” And she was. As she was discharged to go into hospice care, her roommate of several days shouted that she would never forget Janet and would thank her every day for the rest of her life. Janet affected people that way. She was a person who was always concerned for the needs of others, their pain and their suffering.

She will be remembered by her children and their spouses: James, Scott and his wife Tammy, Lisa and her husband Risto, Janet and her husband Rene, and Stanley; her grandchildren and their spouses: Timo, Rebekah and Lukas, Katelyn and Dann, Benjamin and Emma, Alexis, Kaija and Manchit, Krysta, Luke, and Karinne; her great-grandchildren: Chloe, Violet, Thea, Amelia, Leviathan, Samuel, Dashawn, Emmanuella, Julianna, Emrich-Wyatt and Melina; her sister Glenn; and her brother Paul.

She was predeceased by her beloved husband of 44 years, Stanley; her brothers Freddy and Red, whom she adored and who she declared, on many occasions, had raised her, and her granddaughter Kaci.

A private memorial service was held on the Vineyard on Oct. 22, performed by Michael Cochran. 

Her favorite sign-off to every birthday card, Christmas card and the words she said as she hugged people at the door, even at the end, were “hugs and kisses.”