Author Janet Lembke Dies at Age 80

September 5th, 2013
Janet Lembke was a scholar of the classics, an author and an enthusiast of laying hens. Lembke died Tuesday after a lengthy illness, family and friends said. She was 80.

Lembke lived in Staunton for more than 35 years, though her family roots extend much deeper. Last year, she released the last two of 20 books and was working on yet another, a memoir titled "I Married an Arsonist."
Organic gardening and other nature-related pursuits occupied her final years, and she took up subjects large and small with diligence and focus, said her son, Pete Lembke. "Whatever critter would interest her, she would study in-depth," Lembke said.

Joe Kincaid said Janet Lembke became like a second mother. She taught him gardening, canning and staying out of trouble, Kincaid recalled. "She was a very good lady," he said.

The woman who received a grant form the National Endowment for the Arts to translate an ancient poem on farming became known in part for her chickens. She had a minister come bless the coop when she started her hens two years ago, said Sandra Terry. She went all-out for her interests. "She had the ability to make something out of nothing," Terry said. Kincaid was so fond of his second mom that he cleaned her chicken coop, although he hates being around chickens.

Lembke was born in Cleveland and moved to Staunton with her mother in 1940 when her father was drafted to serve in World War II. The family moved back to Ohio after the war. Lembke graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont, after which she married and had four children.
In 1977, she moved to Staunton, where her mother’s lineage reaches back to the 18th century. She divorced her first husband and met her second husband while moderating a creative writing workshop at Staunton Correctional Center.

Adrian Stanley was serving time for arson, and contacted Lembke when he was paroled. The two married and moved into the house on Madison Street, where he died 19 years later, and where Lembke was living when she died Tuesday. Among her interests was advocating for restoration of voting rights for felons who had served their time.

Her 18 books include works of poetry, a translation of Virgil’s "Georgics," other literary translations and essays on nature. Lembke also was a certified master gardener.

Survivors include siblings, Robert Nutt and wife, Mary Beirne, Joe Nutt and his friend, Betty Black Leslie, and Sarah Jane Nutt Hovsepian; children, Peter Lembke, Charley Lembke and wife, Deborah Schrishuhn, Lisa Lembke and husband, Paul Neblock; six grandchildren and their families. No public service will be conducted.