Janis Derry Burch

  • BORN: September 4, 1933
  • DIED: October 31, 2014
  • LOCATION: Laurel, Maryland

Janis Derry Burch, 81, died peacefully at her home near Laurel, Maryland on October 31, 2014, as the result of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

Janis Diane Derry was born on September 4, 1933, the daughter of George William Derry and Alice Cecelia Johnson, in Valentine, Nebraska. She was the youngest of four siblings, including Doyle Derry Scott, Ardis Derry Duke, and George William "Duke" Derry, all of whom predeceased her.

Janis worked briefly at the Pentagon when she was only seventeen years old, then flew home to Nebraska to go to college at Wayne State Teacher's College. After two and a half years, she moved to California, living with her sister Ardis and brother-in-law Claude while working in a bank in Encino. Claude suggested she go to work for the foreign service, and so she went to Washington, DC, to work for the State Department. After a few months, she transferred from the Foreign Service to Civil Service. She worked in that job for only a few months.

Janis married Richard Theodore Burch on March 16, 1957, changing her name to Janis Derry Burch. Their son, Andrew Burch, was born in 1957, and their daughter, Paula Burch, in 1960. Janis and Richard bought a house in Howard County, Maryland, just north of Laurel, in 1961, and have lived there ever since.

Janis went back to school part-time when her younger child began elementary school. She graduated from the University of Maryland in May 1977, with a Bachelor of Arts from the College of Education; her field was Library Science Education. She worked part-time as a substitute media center specialist in middle schools in Howard County, Maryland.

Jan was an avid machine knitter who generously shared her knowledge with her students and fellow crafts persons. For many years she was the co-editor, with Roz Porter, of "Knitting Now In The South", the newsletter for the Carolina Machine Knitting Guild. She wrote a number of pattern books giving directions for machine knitting garments that she had designed; some of these books are still being sold by her friend Roz Porter, who is donating all proceeds to the American Lung Association. Jan's other major hobby was reading; she was always enjoying old and new books by her favorite authors.

The diseases that killed her were caused in large part by smoking cigarettes. She started smoking at age twenty, when doctors said that the only risk was that it might stunt her growth, so she was careful to wait until she was sure she was not going to grow any more. During the years after the Surgeon General's report in 1964, she tried very hard to quit many times, but the addiction was excruciatingly difficult to battle. She switched to cigarettes that were claimed to be low in tar and nicotine, believing the false claims of the manufacturers that these cigarettes would at least reduce her risk, which in fact they did not.

She finally succeeded in quitting smoking at the age of forty-six. She later became certain that she would have died much earlier than she eventually did, and with a much poorer quality of life until then, if she had not quit smoking when she did. We gained many more happy and healthy years of life with Janis as the result. Although quitting smoking improved her health immeasurably, there had been permanent damage during those twenty-six years of smoking, and so eventually her COPD developed to the point where she needed to use oxygen daily.

Jan never let her physical challenges from COPD, gout, or lung cancer cause her to be less than cheerful. She said that she did not see how moping around would improve her situation. She remained as active as possible, getting out with the aid of small canisters of oxygen, and utilizing a rollator walker when her mobility became further limited. She must have felt very relieved that her mental abilities remained clear until very near the end of her life. In the months before her death, she went to great lengths to make her passing less difficult for her family by selling her knitting machines, books, other equipment, and vast, beautiful stash of yarns to those who could truly appreciate them.

She was grateful to be able to remain in her home until her death, thanks to the excellent care provided by her husband Ted and by the visiting hospice nurses.

We will all miss her very much, but our memories of her remain as a great comfort.

A memorial service will be held at 1 pm on Saturday, November 15, 2014, in the chapel at the Donaldson Funeral Home, at 313 Talbott Avenue, Laurel, MD 20707.

Memorial donations may be made to the COPD Foundation, 3300 Ponce de Leon Blvd, Miami, FL 33134 or online at www.copdfoundation.org.

Memorial Service
  • November 15, 2014
    1:00 PM
  • Donaldson Funeral Home Chapel
  • 313 Talbott Avenue
  • Laurel, MD 20707
  • Get Directions
Memorial donations
  • COPD Foundation
  • 3300 Ponce de Leon
  • Miami, FL 33134
  • 1/866-731-2673
  • Get Directions


“ Nan Burch. When Ma call and gave us the news. I was speechless. I felt a great loss. I called Yani she too was shocked. Thank God you did not suffer...Read More »

Posted by: Andres - Germantown Maryland

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