The needler in the haystack.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Peter Janis, activist former Plainfielder, dies


Activist and former Plainfield resident Peter Janis passed away Wednesday, I learned last evening.

A 1982 graduate of Bennington College, Peter arrived in Plainfield in the mid-1990s and immediately became the center of a whirlwind of activity centered on his membership in and promotion of Plainfield's then-thriving gay and lesbian organization, Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield (RSVP).

Many Plainfielders were unaware of the good work that Peter did through his leadership of the nonprofit Professional Women in Construction (see here), an organization that for thirty years has promoted executive and entrepreneurial roles for women and other nontraditional participants in the construction industry and real estate development.

But perhaps Peter's most memorable escapade in Plainfield, and one with the longest-lasting effects, was his stealth campaign against Assemblyman Jerry Green for the City Committee seat in Ward 2, District 6, in which they both resided.

Conducting an unorthodox write-in campaign that flew under the radar until the last moment, Janis defeated the City Committee chairman in the 2001 elections for the district's male seat by a tally of 26 to 22 votes.

Green has never since held the seat, though the bylaws of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee allow him to serve as chairperson even though not an elected member of the committee.

There will be a graveside ceremony on Monday, March 21 and a memorial service on March 29. See details below.




Graveside Service for Peter Janis
Monday · March 21 · 11:00 AM
Sharon Gardens (at Kensico Cemetery)
273 Lakeview Avenue, Valhalla, NY (Info: (914) 949-0347)
Following the service, family and friends will sit shiva
at the home of Trish Giaquinto
419 East 57th Street, #9F, Manhattan

Memorial Service for Peter Janis
Tuesday · March 29 · 11:00 AM
Gramercy Park Memorial Chapel
353 Second Avenue (between 20th and 21st Streets), Manhattan
(Info: (212) 477-6334)
All are invited to share their memories of Peter


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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4 comments:

Carol Davis said...

Dan, I was out of town yesterday and came home to a message on my answering machine that was cut off, and it was from someone at Peter's organization telling me this awful news. I sent an email to his mom, but I'm sure she is rather preoccupied right now.
Please let me know if there is any other information. I will make a memorial gift.
I keep thinking back to the last communication I had with Peter...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. Peter was a good friend and Linda and I were among the few people from Plainfield who kept in touch with him. It always saddened him how Plainfielders seemed to forget him after he left. He did love Plainfield, and he was an integral part of the LGBT community, and of local politics for many years.
Peter had a great deal of integrity. This is what made him so important to me. He always said what he meant, and meant what he said. He did NOT suffer fools gladly, and he stuck to his guns. I remember quite a few RSVP meetings that would get, shall we say, "animated" as a result. I was almost always on Peter's side on these issues, of course. ;0)
Please let us not forget the great "Plainfield City Council Cell Phone" scandal, in which Peter played the gadfly whistleblower. I will leave that to be posted by those who know more, and I'm sure have all the articles safely archived. Long time Plainfield reporter and blogger, you know who you are.
He was a generous and gracious host. He gave the most elegant, sumptuous parties. He tended to everyone's needs, no glass was ever empty at his home. This quality was ever evident at the grand banquets and dinner dances he created for his beloved organization PWC. He always invited us and we have many great memories of him and of these grand events, and his other close friends and family whom we met there. He was well loved and respected in many circles.
Peter always put the greater good above his own needs and interests. He was a good friend to us, always thought of us when there was something he found that could benefit us or our business. He was kind and thoughtful, and devilishly playful. Damn we will miss him terribly.
Peter, RIP my dear old friend.
Joan Hervey

Dottie Gutenkauf said...

Peter was a consummate gadfly but he had the best interests of Plainfield and its citizens at heart and did whatever he could to make our city better. I hope someone does post the saga of the City Council cell phones--it would be instructive for all who now want to do constructive things that could make a difference. Peter certainly did. I'm sure one of our local bloggers has it all in the archives. Peter never pulled any punches--he called it as he saw it, but he was open to rational argument. I have missed him since he left Plainfield and I'm saddened by his death.

Annee Tromp Delgado said...

To say the least, I was very sad to hear the news about Peter. I cried buckets, thinking that I was going to call him and ask where the heck our usual Christmas card was! Then life got busy and we went away for an extended period, and I never did make the call. Peter and I shared coffee and a cigarette many mornings whilst he was living on Oak Lane. Our dogs would romp together while we chatted and he would get royally pissed because his dog wouldnt pay him any mind to go back to his house when Peter had to leave to get his train.
He was indeed a very gracious host; one time in particular he made my Mother and Father very welcome in his home.
We stayed in touch via email after he left Plainfield, and I shared local news and gossip items with him. I´m grateful I had the chance to share some very happy memories with Mr. Peter Janis and so very sorry I wont be able to tease him into old age!!! Au Revoir Friend