Coming Back Home to Columbia — By Janet Kelly

Janet Kelly“Hello, Newman Center this is Janet.”

If you have called the office over the past few months, that is what you heard on the other end of the phone. That was me, the new receptionist/office staff person.

I started here on January 8 and have been learning the job a little each day. I am from Columbia, born and raised. I graduated from Hickman High and attended Columbia College. I was employed at MU for a total of 13 years until the recent budget cuts, whereby I was laid off. I took some time to decide if I should just “retire,” but after a few months at home catching up on projects around the house, I ran out of things to do. So, I began to visit the job boards to see if there was something out there that caught my attention. That is how I came to be the new receptionist at Newman.

My husband Mike and I have been married for 23 years, have three grown children and have moved around the country for his various jobs along the way. We have lived in Victoria, Texas; Amarillo, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Key West, Florida until the last job opportunity brought us back to Columbia where we have been for the last 10 years. Mike has retired from the Navy and is teaching part time at MU.

It was nice; we were able to come back home after being gone from Columbia for 10 years. We were ready to settle down with our eye on a “retirement” location for the future. We found our little piece of paradise south of Columbia in Pierpont on 20 acres, where we happened upon an area that is like being in the 1950s. I kid you not. And we LOVE it. I know all my neighbors, they know us, and everyone actually waves at each other when passing on the roads. Nine of us neighborhood gals get together once a month and play cards and catch up on going-ons around our neighborhood. Just like in the ’50s back when people were neighborly.

One year, we were snowed in with 20 inches of snow. We have a driveway that is 350 feet long, and I’m thinking, how are we going to get out? We had no tractor at the time or any means other than a snow shovel for digging out. When from around the bend in the road comes a big blue tractor that started to plow our driveway! Then he moved on to the next driveway and the next, etc. Now that’s what being neighborly is all about; thanks Tony Miller!

I didn’t grow up a farm girl; funny how life works out. We now have 35 chickens, two dogs, a pole barn, a tractor, and a crop of elderberries growing on two acres; a blackberry patch we plan to turn into a U-pick patch and multiple mulberry and fruit trees. I’m always picking and processing something in the summer/fall. We juice the elderberries and bottle it for sale as well as pick blackberries to sell fresh or frozen. And of course with 35 chickens, we have lots of eggs!

The retirement farming plan is a work in progress and, with both of us working at jobs off the farm, our days are long, but we enjoy working toward having a “farm store” with our own farm-grown and processed items to sell, which was the real “farm retirement” plan.

I hope to get to know you as time goes by and I get settled into the job here at the Newman Center.