Janice Haynes


Anyone who ever met Janice Haynes will be unsurprised to learn she requested a sassy obituary. Here goes.

Janice Haynes died on Monday, June 3, 2024, at home. She was born on Feb. 1, 1966, at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. In choosing that date, she interrupted her mother’s birthday, and spent the next 58 years likewise drawing plenty of attention just by entering a room. Just by existing, really. It’s impossible to write about her without the word exuberance appearing many times; to save ink, please insert exuberance at least once into every following paragraph. 

Janice grew up in West Tisbury, across from her grandmother’s ice cream stand (now State Road Restaurant) and near an illicit entrance to Seven Gates, where she loved to trespass. Her appetite for life was enormous. In high school she discovered makeup and flirtation, much to the delight of the Menemsha Coast Guard. 

Janice attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, where she studied illustration. Withdrawing before graduation, she had a brief starter marriage in her twenties, which took her to suburban Long Island. This was her sole experiment in leading a conventional life, and thus was doomed to failure. 

Returning to West Tisbury, Janice lived with her close friend, Beckie Scotten. They held weekly potlucks, often with music, and sometimes with a bonfire. “You know the party’s a good one when Janice starts taking off her clothes,” Beckie reminisces.

Jeremiah Brown, a Vineyard Gardens landscaper, was a regular at Biga Bakery, where Janice worked; after harboring a crush on her for months, he asked Beckie what her favorite flowers were. “Daffodils!” Beckie said, “And lilacs!” Janice said she fell in love with him on a wintry visit to the Arboretum, when he could identify every bush, shrub, and tree by a twig. 

Janice was ecstatic when her sunflower-themed design was chosen for the 2006 Ag Fair poster. Throughout her life, she vacillated about professional artistic pursuits. For years, she sold her painted works at the Artisans Festival. But she always kept a day job: office manager at Vineyard Gardens, baker at Humphreys and Back Alley, etc. In 2016 she was hired as the hall manager for the Ag Fair. This tickled her; as a child, she’d wanted to grow up to be one of the Fair Ladies. 

At the time of her passing, she worked as administrative assistant to pretty much everyone (her words) at the West Tisbury Town Hall. If you don’t know her by name or voice, she was the one with the turquoise blue and teal green, and sometimes purple, hair. 

In 2019, Janice was diagnosed with colon cancer. A bad reaction to a commonly prescribed blood thinner led to her being medevacked to Boston and put into a medically induced coma. On awakening, her first words were, “Well, that sucked.” This was as close to self-pity as she got. A dyed-in-the-wool rural Yankee, she found the hardest part of cancer was accepting that she needed help from other people, in excess of her own usefulness to them.

She was in treatment throughout lockdown, and her energy often dipped to the level of ordinary mortals. But in July 2021, bald as a cue ball and swathed in bright blue, she artfully navigated COVID restrictions and flew to Ireland for four days to visit a friend. Despite flight complications on both ends of her journey, they saw more of Ireland in those four days than most people do in a month. 

Janice was absolutely unself-conscious, and her underlying state of mind was boisterous delight. Even when discussing things that made her unhappy, she did it with such vim that she seemed almost to take pleasure in her displeasure. She wore her heart on her sleeve, and trusted the world to accept her. A childhood friend recalls, “I was in awe that she dared to be herself before I even knew I could do that.” 

Janice is survived by her husband, Jeremiah Brown, parents Bill and Betty Haynes, mother-in-law Lynne Irons, brother Bruce Haynes, stepsons Michael and Chris, grandkids Zappa and Athena, daughter-in-law Ellie, sisters-in-law Jennifer and Naomi, brother-in-law Reuben, nephew Nathaniel, and nieces Jessica, Lily, Hannah, and Violet, as well as lifelong friends and neighbors around the Island, and especially in West Tisbury. 


  1. Now THAT’S an obituary! She sounds like a woman who was well worth knowing, and those who did must know how fortunate they were.

  2. Janice and I were roommates for several months 25 (!!!) years ago and had kept in touch informally since then. She was a generous, big hearted,creative person who lived her life exuberantly and faced her cancer with incredible courage and grace. I send my love and sympathy to Jeremiah, Becky and all her family and friends💗👏

  3. As I sit here at 81 I am laughing and crying at the same time. What a way to go my friend. Your obit is raw, funny and TRUTH. To those of us who don’t fit the mold we can do the same. Tell your story about your life and death as you want it told. Not some fluff piece about lofty accomplishments, locations of various on and off island home, etc. This was a life well lived with all its imperfections, you knew how to live every fucking moment. I use that word cause I believe you yourself might. Fly free my friend. See you on the other side.

  4. To Bill and Betty, I send my deep condolences. Janice was our dog sitter back in the day…our dogs thrived! I also thrived just by knowing her. Peace and love to you both and to this large and wonderful island family .

  5. Love this. So perfect! I knew Janice since I was born. Family friends, school days, WT local sightings, fair time, and town event planning. She was a bright spot in anyone’s day. She will be missed, but she is making heaven an even more beautiful place!

  6. NAILED IT: WOW what a TRIBUTE. I always loved Janice, I believe we came from the same distant galaxy. She’s the only one of my friends who was born on her mother’s birthday. The 2 were both born on 2/1! Mindblowing really. With that entrance it’s no wonder her whole life was SO special… Janice, may your energetic spirit be bouncing all over the stars like a pinball machine. You made the island a better place.

  7. Thanks for an homage to be read and re-read about a woman who is to be remembered and re-remembered. A life well lived is the best prescription and she followed that scrip to the max. Plus thank you to whoever wrote this (could we please a credit in there?) for shining that light. This is obit for the Island annals.

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