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Obituary of Janet Elizabeth Partlow
Janet Elizabeth Partlow, healer, naturalist, family historian and musician, went home to a beautiful welcome from the ancestors she knew so well after dying peacefully December 11, 2023, in Tumwater, Washington.
Janet was born March 8, 1953, in old St. Peter Hospital overlooking the Deschutes Estuary in Olympia, Washington. She was the fifth of seven children born to Shirley Patterson Partlow and Verne Austin “Bud” Partlow, whose families were deeply rooted in the community.
She attended Lincoln Elementary School, Jefferson Middle School and Olympia High School, where she graduated in 1971. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in 1976 from The Evergreen State College, then began training as a physician assistant and working for the Thurston County Health Department’s Family Planning Clinic.
In the 1980s, Janet completed the University of Washington’s Medex Northwest Physician Assistant Program, which trains healthcare providers for medically underserved areas. Janet moved to the Yakima Valley, where she worked in a community migrant health organization for six years. There, she began to learn Spanish, an interest that spurred extended visits to Mexico and Central America. Her time there included several months in Nicaragua, where she studied the language and worked with the human rights organization, Witness For Peace.
In 1987, she accepted a job with the University of Puget Sound Health Center and, in 1990, returned to Olympia to join the staff of The Evergreen State College’s Health Center. Janet earned her master’s degree in physician assistant science a short time later from the University of Nebraska. She retired from working as a physician’s assistant in 2001 to establish Yerba Buena, her herbal consulting practice.
She had begun studying botanical medicine in 1998 with several respected North American herbalists in her quest to become a registered member of the American Herbalist Guild. After fulfilling the hundreds of hours of clinical experience and botanical medical knowledge required, she accomplished that goal. And she was an excellent practitioner. Those she cared for valued Janet’s knowledge, as well as her keen perception, calmness, and commitment to their well-being. Through Yerba Buena, she served the area community as a certified herbal consultant until her retirement in 2019.
A lifelong scholar, Janet filled her 70 years on earth pursuing countless interests and inspiring others by sharing what she’d learned through classes, nature walks, books, and groups.
She loved and cared for life in all its forms, and she understood the spiritual connection among them. Studying the wonders of the natural world was a passion began at a young age, spurred by annual family vacations to Cannon Beach, Oregon, visits to Mounts St. Helen’s and Rainier, and her mother’s interest in the natural world.
Janet’s fascination with sea mammals led her to join an Earthwatch Institute expedition Mexico’s Sea of Cortez in 1986. She also was active with the Puget Sound Estuarium for some time. Through observation and devouring numerous books, she researched shorebirds, bats, owls and area birds and butterflies.
An avid gardener in earlier years, Janet enjoyed nurturing her medicinal garden and her pollinator gardens to support bees and butterflies.
Music accompanied it all, for Janet also found great joy in music. She began singing with the St. John’s Episcopal Church youth choir when young and played flute in high school band. She also took up guitar, often composing her own music, and performed some of her pieces in concert while in Yakima. Her pleasure in music led to mastering several instruments, including folk instruments like the concertina and Irish pennywhistle.
It was through her participation with the Olympia Song Circle and Olympia Contra Dance groups that she met her husband, Glen Buschmann, whose own interests dovetailed with her own. They were married November 21, 1994, at the Quaker Meeting House in Tumwater. Until Glen’s illness and death in 2019, their lives were full of shared adventures and activities. Two curious people, they found joy in shared trips, camping excursions, studies of area flora and fauna and exploring their genealogies. Together, they often led study tours and walks, helping others learn and enjoy the area’s rich ecological wonders. The couple shared a great sense of fun, enjoying nothing more than a night of cut-throat board games or conversations with friends or family. And they loved simple pleasures – canning peaches, stirring up a pot of jam or joining friends for a night of singing folk songs.
About 1996, Helen Ramsey Patterson, her elderly grandmother, asked Janet to take over the genealogical studies she had labored on for many years. Janet had faint interest but agreed. Soon, she became captivated by her family’s history and some of the predecessors she discovered on her family tree. Her research consumed hours in courthouses, libraries and on the internet, and her search continued until recently, filling every nook and cranny of her office. It took the form of trips to various ancestral locations and correspondence with fellow descendants and researchers to share and swap information. She chronicled her family’s roots in two books, leaving her family a wonderful legacy.
Janet’s ancestors included a sizeable Irish contingent, and she loved all things Irish. In typical fashion, she soon was studying Irish language and culture, a process that resulted in three trips to Ireland to take part in an Irish language program. During one trip, she found the farm of one of her ancestors and walked on their land, one of her happiest memories. In Olympia, she facilitated an Irish language study group and enjoyed Irish song nights. A fourth trip to Ireland was thwarted only by the COVID epidemic.
Through her many interests, her vibrant spirituality, and her quest to help and heal others, Janet touched so many. Her family and friends are grateful for the many ways she enriched our lives. She is survived by her sisters, Sherry Partlow, and her husband, Barry Mullen of Bellingham, Washington, and Nancy Partlow of Tumwater; her brothers, Sammy Partlow and Verne R. “Bob” Partlow, and his wife, Deanna, all of Olympia, and David Partlow, and his wife, Angelle, of Issaquah; and several nieces and nephews. Besides her husband Glen, she was preceded in death by her parents and by her sister, Barbara Partlow, who died in 1993.
At her request, no services will take place.
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