I knew Janice Farnum was experiencing health problems, but her death Nov. 5 was a blow tough to swallow. Janice was the leader of the vocal music department at Maquoketa High School for 30 years and music was important to her sons, Jamie and Chuck.

Under her direction, the Maquoketa Variety Show was a high attraction in the spring year after year. Maquoketa had two showings, which provided every student a role in one of the showings.

The students had several practices for a month. Janice wanted perfection. I question the talk that other larger communities asked Maquoketa to perform. She directed 30 Advent Sings, 29 Madrigal Feasts, and 29 variety shows, and she started the handbell choir.

Cardinal singers competed in state contests, scoring 36 superior ratings on 40 entries. At one point in her three decades at MHS, half the student body sang in the choir. 

When all is said and done, Janice Farnum was among the first class inducted into the Maquoketa High School Hall of Fame in 2016. I don’t think anyone questioned her honor. 

“Let me say, I’m deeply honored to be in the first Hall of Fame,” she said, adjusting the microphone to her petite height during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2016. “I was surprised and deeply honored.” 

During that 2016 induction, she praised her “dear, dear husband, Gayl Farnum, who was beside me every inch of the way. I could not have done half what I did without him right there beside me.”

Gayl was an athlete at Sumner High School. He averaged 11 yards a carry for the football team.

 His college career was divided by World War II, when he served as a B17 bomber pilot flying 35 missions over Germany.

When Farnum returned, he was joined by 10 other returning service veterans. The Upper Iowa University Peacocks were a mature and talented squad. Doc Dorman, a dentist, coached the football team in his spare time. 

Farnum roomed in the back of his office, earning his board by tending the durance and shoveling snow. He was a four-year letterman in football and two each in basketball and baseball. 

He was Maquoketa’s baseball coach in 1952 when the Cardinals went to the state tournament, passing through competition from Dubuque, Davenport and Cedar Rapids. 

His 1953 football team had a 6-3 record and Maquoketa beat DeWitt for its first win over the team in 11 years. 

Farnum left teaching and coaching in 1955 to become an insurance salesman. 

When he passed, the UIU coach presented the family with jersey #49 to be placed in his casket. Just knowing the family was a benefit to myself and many others.