Janet Elaine Steiner

Janet Steiner - Rochester Cremation

Janet Elaine Steiner

Age 75, of Pittsford, New York

Passed peacefully at home surrounded by love on August 1, 2023

Janet Elaine Steiner was born September 24, 1947 in Racine, Wisconsin. She was the second of four daughters of Ralph and Virginia (Powers) Steiner. After graduating from St. Patrick’s Grade School, St. Catherine’s High School and Dominican College in Racine, she went on to receive her MA in English from Marquette University in Milwaukee in 1970, and her MLS from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1971.

Janet was a lifelong librarian – her career began in high school when she worked on the Racine Public Library’s Bookmobile, and she continued working at public libraries throughout college and library school. Her first professional library position was at the College of Racine (formerly Dominican College) in 1971, where she taught Children’s Literature, Young Adult Literature, and worked as a Reference and Serials Librarian. When the college closed in 1974, she was appointed Head of the Adult Services Department at the Elk Grove Village (IL) Public Library, where she was then appointed Library Director from 1976-1980.

Janet married Edward Kokkelenberg in 1977 in Arlington Heights, IL and moved with him in 1980 to Vestal, NY, where she served as the Executive Director of the South Central Research Library Council, headquartered in Ithaca. She became the Director of the Tompkins County Public Library in 1993, where she oversaw the design and construction of a new library which opened in 1999. She retired from the public library in 2009.

Her first brush with breast cancer in 1997 helped her to focus her energy on being of service to others. Janet was very proud of her community involvement and her professional achievements: she was the president of the Ithaca Rotary Club, president of the New York Library Association, president of the Ithaca Downtown Business Women’s Organization, and the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions for her work and dedication to libraries across New York State.

Since she was a child, reading good books and sharing them with others was part of Janet’s genetic make-up. Her commitment to literacy included volunteering with the Tompkins Learning Partners and with Literacy Volunteers of Rochester. Janet and her husband coordinated the Ithaca Rotary Club’s Books for the World project, where they collected and shipped over 100,000 books to libraries and schools in developing countries. They were also part of a Rotary International humanitarian mission to India where they participated in a country-wide polio immunization effort.

She and her husband Edward loved traveling—road trips, cruises, and exploring international cuisine and culture were their favorite adventures. They shared a love of art and art museums, cats, gardening, and music. In retirement Janet was able to pursue her interest in genealogy, and uncovered many stories about her ancestors who came from Germany, Sweden, Ireland and Switzerland. Janet was also a wonderful writer – she wrote hundreds of stories, both fiction and memoirs, and participated in creative writing courses for many years, up until her final weeks. She also led a monthly book discussion group at the Highlands at Pittsford, where she continued to share her love of reading until the very end of her life.

Throughout the last few years, Janet displayed incredible strength, perseverance, grace, and quiet courage as she lived with metastatic breast cancer. She formed very close relationships with her circle of caregivers, and was blessed to have had time to reflect on her life, share memories and stories, visit with dear friends and family, and spend peaceful time outside amongst the flowers.

Janet is survived by her daughter Katherine and her beloved grandson Lucas; her sisters Diane Steiner and Susan Guttenberg (Gary); her four stepchildren and their families: Thomas and Jessica Kokkelenberg; Edward John, Edward Anthony (Olivia), Jessica, Gabriel, Eleanor and Paisley Kokkelenberg; Paul, Debbie, Jon and Kristen Kokkelenberg; Diane, Jeff, Emily, Madeline, and James Boldt; and beloved nieces and nephews.

She was predeceased by her husband, Edward Charles Kokkelenberg, who passed away one day earlier, and by her sister Judith Steiner Jacobi.

A Celebration of Life will be held on September 24, 2023, at 3:00 p.m. at the First Unitarian Church, Rochester NY. Gifts in Janet’s memory may be made to the Tompkins County Public Library Foundation.

9 Condolences

  1. Diane & Chap Haddon on August 4, 2023 at 8:23 am

    Katie,Lucas and family~
    My heart goes out to all of you at such a very sad time.
    I wish I could be there to give many hugs as you go through this. It was an honor and pleasure to know your Mom back in Vestal, NY through you & Corey as you girls grew up. I cherish those memories. Your Mom & Corey have lots to talk about in Heaven.
    In love, friendship and sympathy,
    Di & Chap Haddon
    Southport, NC

    • KENNETH LINDSEY on August 12, 2023 at 9:32 pm

      She was extremely helpful in helping me finding resources in the college library.
      I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends 🙏🏿

  2. Robbie Pottee on August 4, 2023 at 6:08 pm

    Katherine, I am so sorry I wasn’t aware that your Mom had metastatic breast cancer. We are residents of the Highlands but in our apartment but I do remember meeting your Mom and talking about Ithaca, where I’m from, and our love of books. I also have metastatic breast cancer and would have liked to have shared some special moments with your Mom sharing our journey.

  3. Paul Rogers on August 4, 2023 at 8:13 pm

    I will always remember that as a young teenage kid, me and my friends rode our bikes on a long bike trip and visited my cousin Janet at the Elk Grove Public Library, and how PROUD I was in front of all of my friends that MY COUSIN was the librarian there!! 😊 And she was so incredibly sweet to us, even though we’d surprised her as I recall and I’m certain we were probably way too loud and rambunctious.

    And she also contributed to my love of genealogy, and contributed so many branches and stories and nuggets to our family tree.

    R.I.P. smart lady. 💕😔

  4. Barbara Coppock on August 6, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    I am a resident in an apartment at the Highlands. Had phone conversations when Janet was at Thomkins County and I was with Niogsa System in Western NY. So pleasantly surprised when I got to meet her in person! In het short time here we had the opportunity to work together on library issues here. Condolences to her and Ed’s families

  5. Wendy Roe Hovey on August 8, 2023 at 11:22 am

    I had the pleasure to be in a writing group with Janet. I loved hearing her charming stories, often carried by the lively dialogue and interesting characters she created. Our family also regularly enjoys her legacy, the Tompkins County Public Library. Quietly, modestly, she gave so much to the world.

  6. Timothy John Elverman on August 12, 2023 at 9:31 pm

    I knew Janet when she and I attended Dominican College in Racine, WI. She was always positive and “upbeat”. She was a beacon of kindness in our world. My condolences to her loved ones.

  7. Richie Holtz on August 16, 2023 at 9:19 pm

    Katie (Katy), that’s how I knew you at the Campus PreSchool in Binghamton many years ago. I got to know your parents there, and your dad often picked me up hitchhiking when I was done teaching at the PreSchool. I met them again them when I moved to Ithaca, and your mom helped me get a job at the library when I retired from teaching. I saw your mom at yoga over the course of a few years, and I got to meet your boy Lucas when your mom was taking care of him. My thoughts are with you at this time.

  8. Nancy Potter and George Gull on September 19, 2023 at 11:40 pm

    It was the best of times…when Janet and Edward were part of the Ithaca Rotary Club. Janet’s presidential year was charmed with her wit, humor and efficient leadership! And, what an impact they made with the Polio Eradication initiative in India and the Books for the World project engaging volunteers to sort and pack and even offering their garage for temporary storage. We hold their families in our hearts and send condolences during this tender time of transition. May the memories of the joy they brought to this world be a source of comfort. with gratitude,

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