Mary Loretta January, 95, passed away peacefully in her sleep on November 19, 2017. Known to her friends as Mitzi and her Slovenian family as Mici, she was born in Cleveland’s Slavic Village on September 12, 1922 to John Zajc and Agatha Lah Zajc. She was delivered by the same midwife who delivered Ohio’s esteemed governor Frank Lausche. She was very proud of that fact and considered herself to be almost related to Gov. Lausche. Mary was the first in her family to be born in the United States. She didn’t speak English until entering the first grade at St. Christine grade school in Euclid, Ohio. That didn’t hold her back. At 10 years old, when her family was in danger of losing their home, she served as a translator for her father, helping him to renegotiate their loan payment down to $13 per month or $39 per quarter. Thus began her incredible business acumen. She was fluent in both English and Slovenian until her passing. During the Depression, while attending Euclid Central High School, she was employed as a resident domestic helper to the Custin family. She lived with the family through the week, returning to her family home on weekends. This experience proved to be a great adventure. As the diligent caregiver of the12-year-old daughter, Mary book them on a dare-devil ride in a barn-storming World War I biplane, went with Mrs. Custin and the daughter on a three-month vacation at the newly built Shoreham Hotel on South Beach in Florida and, while there, besides meeting many nice people, she bought a Hawaiian grass skirt that she kept for many years
Mary started her career in the paint business at Cochran Paint in Cleveland, where she met her husband Andy January (Sr.). They married in 1945 and moved to Akron in 1946. Andy managed Portage Paint on Cedar Street. In 1956, they started January Paint and Wallpaper at the corner of Bowery and Thornton Streets. In 1969, the store moved to its current location on West Exchange Street. Andy Sr. passed in 1979. Mitzi continued to work and was the financial brains and heart behind January’s. She remained active in the business, retiring in 2007 at 86. Mitzi dedicated her life to her family. She was never afraid or got tired of hard work.
After her husband’s death, she spent a great deal of time with her sister Peg Smerke in Cleveland. After retirement, she kept her yard in a park-like condition. She has spent the last four years at the Gardens of Western Reserve. The family would like to thank all the wonderful people who work in the dementia unit, especially Katlyn Gray and Princess Talley.
Mitzi was preceded in death by her mother, who passed in 1978; her father in 1948; husband Andy, 1979; and sister Peggy Smerke, 2002. She is survived by her brother, John Zajc; daughter Harriet (Nick Calcagno); sons Andy (Cathy); Phil (Julie); and John (Patricia Cameron); grandchildren Mary (Jim Pecchio); Sarah (Nate Cain); Jessica (Don Bry); Isabella, Clarke and Julia. She also is survived by many nieces and nephews.
The family will receive friends at Hummel Funeral Home, 500 E. Exchange St., Friday, November, 24, 2017 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 10 a.m. at St. Paul Catholic Church, 1580 Brown St., Akron, OH 44301. Internment immediately after mass at Holy Cross Cemetery. Lunch will be served at St. Paul in Boeke Hall after the internment.