Remembering Janet Mary Jemec, Lyme Warrior and Advocate

Who could forget the bright red hair, endearing smile, enthusiasm, andJanet Jemec kindheartedness of my dear friend, Janet Jemec? Janet was a dynamo during the early struggles of the tri-state area’s Lyme community and remained active until 12 years ago.

Janet Mary Jemec, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and well-respected Lyme disease advocate, passed away on February 24, 2023. She died after a short battle with a respiratory illness.

As a teen, Janet’s dream was to become a nurse. After high school, she attended the Caledonian School of Nursing. Upon graduation, Janet focused on geriatric and hospice care. Little did she know that her career as a nurse would help her deal with the effects that Lyme and tick-borne diseases (TBD) had on herself, family members, friends, and thousands of people she helped during her life.  

Janet volunteered as the Vice President at the non-profit, Lyme Disease Association of New York, (LDANY), active 1991-early 2000s. Janet and my mother, Joyce Mennella, President of LDANY, along with Jessica Rose, were the founding members of LDANY. The former Saint Vincent’s Hospital, Staten Island, was the home base.

Janet helped organize the first NYC-wide Lyme disease presentation, held at the Hospital. It featured three of the then-leading experts on Lyme disease, doctors Joseph J. Burrascano Jr., Brian A. Fallon, and Derrick M. DeSilva as its main speakers. This event led to the introduction of Dr. Fallon to the then Lyme Disease Association of NJ, now Lyme Disease Association, Inc. (LDA).

Janet was married to her husband, Tommy, the love of her life, for 48 years, and together, they helped others dealing with Lyme and TBDs as the volunteer facilitators of the LDANY’s support groups, held in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

The Jemec Family was a staple at the LDA’s “Great Imitator” fundraisers at the Jersey Shore. Guests  looked forward to seeing Janet dressed in her favorite “Scarlet” costume, based on Carol Burnett’s spoof “Went With the Wind.” She was a fierce animal lover and spoke on TBD prevention for pets. Janet spearheaded a fundraiser for the Columbia Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center, endowed by LDA and Time for Lyme, and raised money selling reusable shopping bags long before they became fashionable. In addition, Janet assisted the LDA in promoting Lyme and TBD education among college students during Resident Assistance training at the New Jersey Institute of Technology from 1998-2001.

She is survived by her husband Tommy, daughter Victoria, granddaughter Eva, stepdaughter Andrea, and granddaughter Callie. Janet lived a life of love and service. What a lovely person she was! Janet will be missed.

The family has requested that donations be made to Lyme Disease Association, Inc. in Janet’s memory. DONATE  

LDA Note: The author, Debora Scatuccio, is a long-time LDA volunteer and former LDA Board of Directors Member. She worked together with Janet early in the Lyme movement and they had been friends ever since.