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Janett Crain Leaves a Legacy in Searcy

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A lifelong champion of Searcy, the late Janett Crain continues to influence the community with her optimism, joy, energy, kindness and get-it-done approach.

From intimate book club gatherings to all-hands meetings and events, Janett had a remarkable way of connecting with people. Her impact is evident in enduring relationships with family and friends, fellow churchgoers, Junior Auxiliary members, local educators and her husband Larry, her true love of 64 years.

The Crain’s local and statewide involvement spans a number of organizations in Searcy and throughout the state of Arkansas. One nonprofit fortunate to benefit from their generosity is Searcy KLIFE, a youth ministry that focuses on discipleship.

To celebrate her life and legacy in the community, Searcy KLIFE’s annual holiday run is being named the Janett Crain Fun Run for KLIFE. The event also coincides with the season of merriment as the Searcy Holiday of Lights festivities illuminate the town.

Larry says the event date of December 7 struck him as significant because it is close to Janett’s birthday — December 9.

“She would always tell people ‘I was born two days after Pearl Harbor,’” he recalls.

“It just got to be part of her introduction. Then, one of our granddaughters was born on December 7, and Janett would always tell her she was born on Pearl Harbor Day. Every year, our granddaughter asks, “Now, Grandy, what day was it that I was born?’”

After her death last December, Larry says he became more aware of just how many people Janett impacted through her life and work in the community. He says supporting KLIFE is one way he is honoring her legacy.

Shining a Light on Education

Through her drive to take action, Larry says Janett became the president of nearly every group she was involved in, gaining a reputation for organizing and getting things done.

Under Janett’s leadership as Junior Auxiliary president, the membership helped organize and open the Sunshine School. In its 55th year, the school serves students from children to adults with disabilities.

Mary-Lou Dunn, retired executive director of the Sunshine School, attended grade school with Janett and says she was in awe of her classmate from a young age. As adults, they worked on multiple projects for the Sunshine School.

One project was spearheading the fundraiser for a new building for the school. Another was coordinating the school’s 50th-anniversary celebration — the answer to one of Mary-Lou’s prayers for the school.

“Without her and her tireless group of ladies, we would not be in our great facility,” she shares. “Janett was generous, creative, and fun to be around. You always knew that she cared about you and lots of other people, too. She had a great knack for seeing a need and taking care of it whether by herself or with a group of like-minded people. Janett and Larry are outstanding examples of being involved with and giving back to their community.”

Focusing on Faith

From education to her faith community, another area of Searcy where Janett had an incredible impact was at her church. The Crains came to know Reverend David Orr as longtime members of First United Methodist Church.

Over the years, Janett worked with Rev. David on projects for people in need, ways to make the church’s outreach program effective and how to refine the church’s facilities and appearance. She was also active in the children’s department, youth, and music.

“She was generous in financial ways, but even more so in the energy she gave,” he says. “Even though her children or grandchildren did not live in Searcy, she loved the children and youth of Searcy as part of her extended family.”

Rev. David describes Janett as being enthusiastic about anything she chose to tackle. “She had a smile on her face and a lot of grit in her spirit. Janett was a positive influence on every group in which she participated — always looking for a way to move her group forward, she celebrated every achievement.”

“Janett lifted people up,” he adds. “She didn’t just give people a pat on the back, she got involved and tried to make a concrete difference. Janett Crain was one of those rare people who could connect with about anyone and make each person feel important and valued. Janett must have had 100 “best friends.” All of us who knew her are better for having known her. All of us who knew her want to honor her memory in any way we can.”

Inspiring the Next Generation

One of the many individuals who considers herself better for knowing Janett is Sara Dacus. Sara, a local educator, met Janett when she joined Junior Auxiliary of Searcy. As a provisional member, Sara says Janett was warm and welcoming with a keen interest in getting to know the new members.

“I remember how special she made me feel,” Sara recalls. “She wanted to know about my family, my experiences and my interests. Over the years, I saw her give this same attention to other people she met. She made people feel accepted and welcome.”

After her five-year commitment, Sara says Janett remained involved in Junior Auxiliary to help with special projects and share ideas to continue to advance the chapter, always wanting it to be successful.

“She brought joy and energy everywhere,” she says. “She radiated light in our community, state and beyond, and she shined bright even in times of hardship.”

The women shared a love of reading and eventually found themselves in the same book club, which Janett fondly referred to as the “Fabulous Book Club” with women of all ages. Not one to shy away from topics, she embraced discussing ideas with an open mind and kindness that Sara reflects on with admiration.

“Janett inspires me to be a better person. She was a magnificent woman and friend,” Sara concludes. “If I accomplish only a fraction of what she did, I will consider myself a success.”

Leaving a Legacy

Janett’s leadership and influence also included service as president of Chapter AA Philanthropic Educational Organization, Main Street Searcy Board of Directors, as an active volunteer in the Searcy Public Schools, the Arkansas Cancer Research Center Auxiliary, Arkansas Governor’s Mansion Commission and the Old Statehouse Museum Association.

Larry says Janett possessed all of the same qualities when he fell for her in 9th Grade — caring, compassionate and her trademark can-do attitude.

“After six years of dating and 58 years of marriage, everything that other people might think was extraordinary about Janett became every day to me,” he says. “From where I stand now, I admire them even more.”

Connecting to KLIFE

The heartbeat of KLIFE is building relationships with a focus on discipleship. Searcy KLIFE offers weekly sessions that include games, worship and devotional time at Klub meetings; weekly small groups; monthly events; and one-on-one mentoring for extra encouragement.

Klub, the weekly devo time, meets every Tuesday during the school year, starting with Super K from 4 to 5 p.m. for 5th and 6th graders, Junior High Klub from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. for 7th to 9th graders, and Senior High Klub from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. for 10th to 12th graders.

To register for the Janett Crain Fun Run for KLIFE, register on the Searcy KLIFE event page or call (501) 353-7406. Runners and walkers may also register the morning of the event on Saturday, December 7, starting at 8:30 a.m., near the Santa Hut on the courthouse square in downtown Searcy.

Connect to Searcy KLIFE on social media at Facebook, on Instagram and Twitter using the handle @SearcyKLIFE or through the website. KLIFE hosts chapters in Arkansas Conway, Harrison, Hot Springs, Fayetteville and Ozark of the 25 chapters nationwide. Visit the KLIFE headquarters website for more.

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A native Arkansan, Erica lives in Searcy with her husband Jonathan and their children Eliza and Noah. When she has a free day, she enjoys picking up a latte at one of the local coffeehouses and perusing the new paintings along Searcy’s Art Alley. Professionally, she serves as Global Communications Manager with a focus on internal communications for a large economic development organization based in Little Rock.

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