Cover photo for Janelle Laraine Evans's Obituary
Janelle Laraine Evans Profile Photo
1956 Janelle 2023

Janelle Laraine Evans

July 27, 1956 — June 6, 2023

 

Janelle Laraine (Johnson) Evans, of Layton, Utah, passed away from complications of cancer on June 6, 2023, at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City. She was surrounded by family and many close friends in her final days.

 

Born on July 27, 1956, in Twin Falls, Idaho, Janelle was the only child of Raymond and Wanda (Sallee) Johnson. Her parents farmed at Hansen and moved to Kimberly when she was eight. Janelle was part of the family farm operation, helping her dad with livestock, equipment, and irrigation chores throughout her early years. She was involved in the local 4-H Club and showed steers at the county fair each year, using the proceeds to help finance her college education. She graduated from Kimberly High School in 1974.

 

In the fall of 1974, Janelle began her education at the University of Idaho (UI) in Moscow. She joined the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority where she served as president, participated in all aspects of Greek living and made many life-long friends. During summer breaks, she worked for Gale Kleinkopf at the UI Kimberly Research Center. Janelle earned her bachelor’s degree in Soil Sciences in 1978 and Gale encouraged her to pursue a graduate degree. Janelle’s thesis work was in potato research, and she received her master’s degree in Bacteriology from the UI in May of 1981.

 

Janelle returned to Twin Falls and officially began her career in plant research at the Kimberly Center, working on numerous projects involving potato development, storage techniques, and genetic research. She then worked for American Cyanamid, a national agricultural chemical company, that sent her to Purdue University for her initial training. She traveled throughout Idaho, eastern Washington and northern Utah to oversee crop test plots and conduct field research for the company.

 

Janelle first met Tom Evans during college, and they reconnected several years later at a UI/BSU football gathering in Boise. Tom and Janelle were married on July 19, 1986, in Twin Falls and moved to Layton, Utah, close to Tom’s work as a photographer at Morton Thiokol Space Division.

 

It didn’t take long for Janelle to secure a research and development position in Salt Lake City with Native Plants Inc. (NPI), whose focus was genetic engineering of plants. When NPI closed, she and several co-workers founded Linkage Genetics and she was involved in their research on DNA extraction in plants. The company was quite successful and eventually sold to PerkinElmer, who moved the operations to the University of California Davis.

 

Janelle chose to stay in Utah and continued her career as a Senior Research Scientist, first at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and then at the University of Utah Human Genetics Department. She worked in the genetics lab of Carl Thummel, with responsibility for the breeding stock of fruit flies, which are studied to understand more about human development and disease. In her role, she provided support to the doctoral and post-doctoral trainees in their professional research. Janelle was an excellent technician but was also respected for the culture she helped develop in the lab with the staff and graduate students. Janelle had a special place in her heart for the students, many of whom were far from home, and they fondly referred to her as their “Lab Mom.” Janelle retired from the department in 2019, but kept in close touch with Carl, the staff, and former students.

 

In addition to her career, Janelle was also a busy volunteer. She was a member of P.E.O., a women’s philanthropic and educational organization. Janelle joined P.E.O. in 1982, was an active member of Chapter AN, UT, and served in many local and state positions through the years.

 

In 2002, the Evans had the unique opportunity to serve as volunteers at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. This experience was a highlight for both of them and the contacts they made led to volunteer work with the Men’s Alpine World Cup Ski Races. The annual “Birds of Prey” World Cup races are held in Beaver Creek, Colorado and the Evans have been involved for the past 20 years. While Tom helped on the racecourse, Janelle’s duties were administrative, and she became close friends with many of the other “Talon Crew” volunteers. Both Janelle and Tom have thoroughly enjoyed meeting the athletes and following their professional careers.

 

With Janelle’s excellent travel planning abilities, she and Tom enjoyed trips to the Netherlands, China, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Canada, Hawaii, and many other states. Perhaps Janelle’s favorite destination was Key West, Florida, where she and Tom, plus various friends traveled many times over the years. Closer to home, the Evans were frequent visitors to state and national parks, with Janelle in charge of meal planning and hospitality for their group camping/biking adventures with friends. Janelle and Tom made an annual summer visit to Lake Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho and the time was spent enjoying boat rides on the lake, listening to Jimmy Buffett music while sipping margaritas, and having fun at the cabin with their long-time college friends.

 

Janelle had many personal interests as well. She loved animals and always had a miniature Schnauzer by her side, most recently her companion Griff. For many years, Janelle and Tom faithfully watched the Utah Jazz, both in person and on TV. She followed in her mother’s footsteps and was an excellent cook - ask anyone who has enjoyed her lemon bread, homemade spaghetti sauce, taco soup or grasshopper pie. Janelle was a wonderful hostess with a beautiful home, yard and gardens. She was also a talented cross-stitcher, and a gifted artist in the creation of woven baskets. Over the past 30 years, she made hundreds of beautiful baskets as gifts for family and friends – each one truly cherished

by the recipient.

 

Those who knew her will agree that Janelle’s greatest talent was her capacity to care for others. She was an excellent listener, understanding what the people in her life needed and how to provide it for them. She was a true friend. Janelle’s thoughtfulness, humility, humor and kindness touched each of us and provided an example of how to live a meaningful and impactful life. One of her young friends promised her “I will try my best to be who you were to me, for those around me.” Janelle’s caring heart and generous spirit will remain with each of us, along with gratitude for the privilege of sharing life’s journey with her.

 

Janelle was preceded in death by her mother and her grandparents. She is survived by her husband Tom, her father Raymond, sisters-in-law Susan (Claude) Connelly and Sandy Evans, nephew Chris Connelly, several cousins, and many dear friends who were like family to her.

 

A gathering of family and friends to celebrate Janelle’s life will be held this fall in Boise, Idaho.

 

Tom extends his sincere thanks to the Huntsman at Home providers, as well as the oncology and hospice teams at the Huntsman Cancer Institute for their care of Janelle and support these past five months. Memorial contributions in Janelle’s name may be made to: Huntsman Cancer Foundation, 500 S. Huntsman Way, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, or via their website at: https://healthcare.utah.edu/huntsmancancerinstitute/foundation/about-us

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