We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Hartzler-Gutermuth-Inman Funeral Home Inc.
Janet Roberts Schlegelmilch Thomas, 74, of Elkhart was born in Long Branch, NJ on February 20, 1947, to the late Reuben and Margaret (Roberts) Schlegelmilch. She passed away following a 16-month battle with MDS (Myelodysplastic Syndromes, a rare blood cancer) at Greenleaf Health Campus in Elkhart, IN on December 16, 2021.
She lived in Rome, NY, Boston, MA, Endwell, NY, and Chevy Chase, MD before attending Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY where she obtained her Bachelor of Music Education degree with a major in string instruments. Jan then took a teaching position in the Appleton, WI public school system where she started one of the first public school Suzuki Violin programs in the state.
She met her husband, Neal F. Thomas, in church one Sunday when Neal was visiting his parents in Appleton where Neal’s father was pastor of First United Methodist Church. Jan and Neal were married by Neal’s father, Reverend Herman F. Thomas, on December 29, 1973.
Jan and Neal settled in Brown Deer, WI; and Jan took a teaching position with the Greendale, WI public school system. They bought their first house in Whitefish Bay, WI and Jan stopped teaching in the public school system when their son, Jeremy, was born. Jan then began teaching Suzuki violin to private students in their home. Their daughter, Stephanie, was born, and they later moved to Raleigh, NC due to Neal’s career change.
They moved to Elkhart, IN, in 1981. Jan again taught violin students at home while the children were young, and later she became an orchestra teacher with Elkhart Community Schools at West Side Middle School and Memorial High School. She retired from teaching in 2008 but continued to mentor students as a volunteer.
Jan was an active member of Trinity United Methodist Church, now renamed Trinity on Jackson, Elkhart, IN where she was a member of the United Methodist Women and in its Naomi circle. She taught elementary Sunday School for 20 years and played in the church orchestra.
She was an avid quilter, cook, and reader. Jan was a member of the Heartland Quilters, Daughters of the American Revolution, Daughters of the War of 1812, Sigma Alpha Iota honorary music sorority, Extension Homemaker Club, and Chapter BG of the PEO Sisterhood. Jan was a member of the Elkhart Junior Women’s Club and participated in their Tinsel Trail program.
Jan is survived by her husband of almost 48 years, Neal Thomas, her daughter, Stephanie (Dan) Mendoza of Richland, WA, son Jeremy (Amanda) Thomas of Northville, MI, sisters Peggy and Joan Schlegelmilch, brother Ray (Ann) Schlegelmilch, and grandchildren Marcella Mendoza and Mason, Connor, and Jenna Thomas.
Arrangements and cremation are being handled by Hartzler-Gutermuth-Inman Funeral Home, 403 W. Franklin Street, Elkhart, IN. Always planning, Jan has had the details for her memorial service completed for several years. There will be a memorial service at 2:00 PM on Tuesday, December 21st at Trinity on Jackson, 2715 East Jackson Blvd., Elkhart, IN 46516. The family will receive friends one hour prior to services. Due to the high Covid numbers in the area, attendees must be fully Covid vaccinated, wear masks, and avoid handshaking.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Trinity on Jackson, the Humane Society of Elkhart County 54687 C.R. 19 Bristol, IN 46507 or the charity of your choice.
Elkhart County Humane Society
54687 CR 19, Bristol IN 46507
Trinity on Jackson Church
2715 E. Jackson Blvd, Elkhart IN 46516