Janet Nicholson Smith

June 5, 1955October 7, 2013


Janet Nicholson Smith died peacefully Monday evening at her home surrounded by loved ones after suffering from and fighting glioblastoma multiformé (GBM), a very aggressive form of brain cancer, for over 21 months. Since 2005, she was an elementary school teacher at Waynewood Elementary in Fairfax County, Virginia. She continued her dedication to teaching, both in Kindergarten and as a Reading Specialist, until the effects of her terminal illness and the effects of the medicines used to fight it rendered her quite suddenly unable to come to work only last month. She had previously taught at nearby Hybla Valley Elementary from 2000.

The former Janet Arlene Nicholson was the daughter of the late Burnard Eugene Nicholson, an Indiana native and Emmy award-winning electrical engineer for RCA for 40 years, and Dorothy May Waldron Nicholson, a native of Camden, New Jersey, currently residing in southern Chester County, Pennsylvania. She spent her childhood and early adulthood in Haddonfield, New Jersey, an historic colonial town outside of Philadelphia, where she attended Haddonfield Memorial High School and was a cheerleader. She received her B.A. in Education (cum laude) from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) in New Jersey, majoring in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Elementary Education. She also had post-graduate credits from Rutgers University and a lifetime of continuing education spanning the fields of teaching, reading, financial securities, and computers.

She started her teaching career in the neighboring town of Haddon Heights, New Jersey, where she taught for four years including First Grade, Kindergarten, Psycho-Motor Skills, and Title I/Compensatory Education (remedial math and reading).

In 1981, she married Kevin Hopkins Smith of Kimberton, Chester County, Pennsylvania, then an attorney for the American Gas Association in Arlington, Virginia, whom she had met while he was practicing with a Philadelphia law firm. Upon relocating to Northern Virginia, teaching positions proved scarce, so she embarked upon a second career in the mutual fund industry, serving in several positions with the Investment Company Institute in Washington, D.C., the national trade association for the mutual fund industry, receiving two promotions in less than two years. She continued in this industry when she and her husband relocated in 1983 so he could establish a private law practice in his hometown of Phoenixville, Chester County, Pennsylvania. She first served as a Registered Mutual Fund Representative with the Vanguard Group of Mutual Funds in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, earning a Series 6 Registration from the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), and then accepted a position as a corporate officer in a small Valley Forge-based money market fund. During these years, she and her husband lived on a 65-acre farm that is now part of Valley Forge National Park. After the National Park Service acquired the farm, they moved inside the borough of Phoenixville into a small Victorian mansion four blocks from her husband's law office and she added income tax preparation work for a local accountant to her varied resumé while continuing with the Valley Forge money market fund.

In 1987, her third major career was launched with the birth of their son, Dustin Lofland Smith, and she became a full-time "stay-at-home" mother for Dustin and their daughter, Laura Nicholson Smith, who arrived in 1989. Her six years of full-time devotion to motherhood continues to earn praise even today from those who meet her children. After moving to a new house in the neighboring village of Kimberton, she incorporated the children of others into her daytime routine for a couple of years as the proprietor of her own home-based child care business, also conceiving, organizing, and operating a pre-school play group for children whose parents were involved in various programs at a local community center.

As her children were entering pre-school, she began substitute teaching at Zion Lutheran Pre-School near their home and quickly thereafter was hired as its Director, managing a staff of 18 and a student population of 175, aged 2 to 5, where she served for four years, during which the lines of parents attempting to enroll their children on a first-come, first-served basis stretched long into the parking lot. She later served for a year on the editorial staff and as Publications Coordinator for an educational consulting firm in Paoli, Pennsylvania, which published specialized curriculum materials particularly in the then-burgeoning field of integrating workplace ethics education into school curricula.

During most of their Pennsylvania years, she was also active in politics, serving on the Chester County Republican Committee as a precinct committeewoman in both the Borough of Phoenixville and East Pikeland Township and was re-elected many times.

When they moved their family to Alexandria, Virginia, at the close of the century, she was hired by Fairfax County Public Schools within a week. Based on the flood of comments already online from parents regarding their own and their children's memories of Janet's teaching and also her caring and kind attitude, it is quite obvious that she has had a major impact on the lives of the hundreds of students she has taught. In one case, from her early New Jersey teaching years, that impact was so great on one little girl that she, decades later, invited Janet and her husband to her wedding.

She is survived by her husband of over 32 years, by her two children, by her 92-year-old mother, by her older brother, Kenneth Eugene Nicholson, of Wilmington, Delaware, by her nephew Daniel Taylor Nicholson, of West Chester, Pennsylvania, by two grand-nephews (plus one more well on the way), and by countless loving in-laws and devoted friends. Son Dustin is currently working on his Ph.D. in German at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, following his Master's there and his B.A. from The College of William & Mary. He is a former Fulbright Scholar and, between high school and college, was also awarded a Congress-Bundestag Scholarship, in each case living in Germany for a full year. Daughter Laura has her B.S. (cum laude) in Elementary Education from James Madison University and her Master of Arts in Teaching from there as well. She is following in her mother's footsteps and currently teaches Kindergarten in the Fairfax County Public Schools at Woodley Hills Elementary in Mount Vernon.

Janet was a member of Alexandria Presbyterian Church (PCA) in the Del Ray section of the City of Alexandria, where her funeral service will be held at 1:00pm on Saturday with a luncheon to follow from 2:00-3:00pm. She was active in several churches throughout her life in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Demaine Funeral Home, 520 South Washington Street (GW Parkway w/i Old Town), Alexandria, Virginia, where a viewing will be held this Friday from 6:00pm to 9:00pm.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions to The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke, DUMC Box 3624, Durham, NC 27710 in her memory. Instructions and forms can be found on the website: This is where her care was managed and the care of loved ones of two family friends continues to be managed.


  • Visitation Friday, October 11, 2013
  • Funeral Service Saturday, October 12, 2013

Janet Nicholson Smith

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January 7, 2014


Stricken on New Year's Eve, 2011, Janet, with your loving support, received the best medical attention in the country to overcome her GBM. Our thoughts are with you, Dustin and Laura as you grieve her loss.

Steve Coval
Karen Lawley

October 30, 2013

I am so sorry for your loss of Janet. I knew her my entire life and enjoyed being friends in N.J. through church, school, and parents' friendships. We spend many afternoons and sleep-overs enjoying each other's company. Janet was a delightful friend, and I know she will be greatly missed. Your family was blessed to have been able to call her wife and mother. My best to all of you, including Ken and Mrs. Nicholson. Much love, Ann Grim Pippitt

October 18, 2013

My thoughts and prayers are with you. I will cherish many fond memories of swimming, play dates, and lots of great times when our children were younger. Linda Norris, Phoenixville, Pa.

Deidra Dunbar

October 13, 2013

My thoughts and prayers are with your family at this difficult time. May you find strength and comfort in your faith. God Bless.

Cindy Grider

October 13, 2013

So sorry for a loss of one so great. My prayers, blessings, condolences and deepest sympathy are with her family. May she forever rest in eternal peace and happiness - now free of pain. She obviously will not be forgotten and remembered for all her great achievements as well as her generous nurturing to others.

Janice Nichols

October 12, 2013

Janet was a true blessing in my life as we shared car rides to class. My prayers go out to your family. Janice Nichols

David and Stacey Stephens

October 12, 2013

Janet's life was a blessing to so many; she will be greatly missed. We're keeping her family in our prayers.

Eileen Deaver

October 11, 2013

Janet was a delightful person and coworker. I will always remember her bright smile. Peace be with you Janet.

Sharon Vennelwieber

October 11, 2013

My Prayers go out to all of Janet's family, I will always remember the great times we had growing up in Haddonfield, Janet was always fun to be around & had such a big heart & lots of love & friendship for all. RIP my friend of olde. <3

Caryn (Larro) Lynch

October 11, 2013

I was a student of both Miss Nicholson and Mrs. Smith:-). She taught us two years in a row for kindergarten and first grade (she told us it was because she liked us so much). She was the most wonderful, warm, and nurturing teacher to have for those formative years. My youngest daughter is in kindergarden now and it bring back lots of wonderful memories I had at the same age thanks to this amazing woman. Prayers to your entire family and all those who love her.