Longtime resident, prolific artist, Harvard Post mainstay
Janet Fowke. (Courtesy photo)
Janet L. (Streeter) Fowke, 92, who depicted Harvard scenes in hundreds of illustrations over more than three decades in the Harvard Post and in early issues of the Press, died Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, at Fitchburg Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Fitchburg. Her paintings, drawings, and illustrations captured the town’s beauty and history in every season, from the most delicate apple blossom to historical buildings and engaging landscapes. She illustrated several books and published “Hill Country,” a collection of her drawings, in 1985.
Janet was born in Ware Nov. 3, 1928, a daughter of Harley and Helen (Clark) Streeter. She grew up in Wakefield and Medford and showed artistic talent at an early age. In her early teens she earned money drawing buildings at Tufts University for note paper that was sold at the college bookstore. She was a graduate of Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, where she earned her way by drawing posters and other artwork.
During the Korean War she began corresponding with Donald Fowke, the son of family friends who was serving in the Army overseas. When he returned from the war he asked her to marry him, and eventually she agreed. The young couple lived in Duxbury, then in Pembroke, before moving to Harvard in 1972. As a child, Janet and her older brother Clark had spent summers with their grandparents on Sheep Island in Bare Hill Pond. They loved it there, swimming, fishing, boating, and playing with a gang of kids in a snug enclave of small cottages. Her grandfather’s cottage, like others on the island, was passed down from generation to generation, so Janet and Don looked forward to being close to Sheep Island and watching their two sons have the same experience.
Soon after they moved to Harvard, Janet began doing illustrations for the Harvard Post, which started publishing in 1973. Week after week, her drawings brightened the paper, and occasionally took center stage, filling the whole front page of the annual year-end issue. At the same time, she illustrated editions of Louisa May Alcott’s “Transcendental Wild Oats” and the “Harvard Shaker Book of Days,” created a Shaker coloring book, and produced hundreds of fine pen-and-ink drawings of town buildings and residences. She was commissioned to paint a big mural in the Shaker Place office building on Ayer Road, where she stood on a scaffold to create a soaring view of Shaker Village. Her work has appeared on note cards and other items used in fundraising for a number of town organizations.
Janet’s husband, Donald J. Fowke, died in 2003. She leaves two sons and daughters-in-law: Jay H. and Michelle Fowke of Memphis, Tennessee, and Guy H. and Sandy Fowke of Fitchburg; and four grandchildren: Rachel Fowke, Rebecca Fowke, Kerryann Coppinger, and Jason Barrett. She also leaves two great-grandchildren. She was the sister of the late Clark Streeter, who served briefly as Harvard’s town doctor in the early 1950s.
Visiting hours for Janet will be held at Anderson Funeral Home, 25 Fitchburg Road, Ayer, on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, from 2 until 5 p.m. For additional information or to leave an online condolence, go to www.andersonfuneral.com.