It is with great sadness and loss that our dear mother, Janice Frances Esham Walden, experienced a stroke in the 7:00 p.m. hour of September 21, 2021, and became unresponsive.
Her sons Mike and Tommy and grandson Erick were able to arrive and spend time at her bedside holding her hand and expressing love for her life before her passing at 12:34 PM on September 23, 2021, while in ICU care Martin North Cleveland Clinic in Stuart Florida. She had lived 84 years, two months, and 13 days.
Janice Esham was born on July 10, 1937, in Vanceburg Kentucky to Drennan Clark Esham, a past sheriff of Lewis County, and to Anna Laura Lewis. She was the granddaughter of William Handy Esham and Lucy Jane Thomas, and of Sanford Jackson (Todd) Lewis and Frances Belle Clark, all lifelong residents of Lewis County.
Janice grew up on the family farms at Kinniconick in Lewis County where she attended elementary school and spent most of her childhood. She attended junior high and her freshman year at Burgin High School in Harrodsburg Kentucky. She spent the final three years at Lewis County High School where she graduated in the Class of 1954 at the age of 16 and 11 months.
She attended Georgetown College from 1954-56 and graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 1959 with a B.A. in Home Economics and English. In 1973, she earned a Masters Degree from Florida Atlantic University in Palm Beach County, Florida.
On February 1, 1958, she married James Kelly Walden, son of Woodie Walden Jr. and Correne Barbour, at the First Baptist Church in Vanceburg, KY. From this union, two sons were born, Michael W. Walden in 1959 and Thomas K. Walden in 1961.
From 1963 until her retirement in 2000, Janice was a career educator having worked in various positions during her 32 year-long career with the Palm Beach County, FL School District. During her tenure at Howell Watkins Junior High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, she was a popular teacher who inspired and touched the lives of many students, many of whom later had said that she had been their favorite teacher. Her last assignment was that of a guidance counselor at Jupiter Elementary School in Jupiter, Florida.
From 2002-2012, she moved to Dumfries, Virginia, to live near her younger son, Tommy. While there, she raised Katie, her poodle and best friend of 15 years, until the dog’s passing in 2019. From 2012-2021, she returned to the warmer climate of North Palm Beach, Florida, where she remained until July 24 of this year. We had just moved into a new house in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, just two months before her passing, but unfortunately she spent most of those last days in the hospital and rehab.
Janice was a beautiful person inside and out. She was a loyal friend to many. She was a lifelong devout Christian who loved God and Jesus Christ with all her heart. She was a moral, thoughtful, and caring person who felt compassion and empathy for those less fortunate and who were suffering. She supported many Christian ministries, homeless veterans, persecuted Jews and Christians around the world, and sponsored many poor children in developing countries. She prayed incessantly and trusted God to be her refuge and strength in all matters. She encouraged others to do so as well.
Janice was preceded in death by her parents, Clark (1949) and Anna Esham (1982), and every sibling: Gilbert (1943), Butch (1954), Juanita (2001), Jack (2002), Sue (2007), Tom (2017), as well as many friends. But she said that she “viewed death as a graduation and a good thing”. She often said, “everyone has a shelf-life and an end date, and life does not just go on forever.” But she also knew that she would experience a new life with a new body, one free from the sufferings of diabetes and neuropathy, in Paradise. She knew that her life on this Earth was ending, and she looked forward to reuniting with her mother, siblings, and Jesus in Heaven.
An hour before her stroke, she had prayed with her Baptist minister and asked him to perform her memorial service. She also sent both of her sons text messages in her final hour of consciousness.
In one text, she stated, “I’ve had a long life and have no regrets at all. Trust God with all your heart, you must. I could not bare the thought of spending eternity without you”.
She is survived by her two sons, Michael Walden (Nancy) of Hillsborough, North Carolina, and Thomas K. (Ericka) Walden of Lake Ridge, Virginia, and her three grandchildren, Erick Walden of Lake Ridge, Virginia; Emily Walden of Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and John Walden of Atlanta, Georgia; one sister-in-law, many nephews and nieces, and many friends.
While saddened, we know that our loss is her gain, and we rejoice at the thought that she has now been reunited with her mother, siblings, and those who were waiting to welcome her into Glory. She will be greatly missed by all who knew and who loved her.
A Memorial service will be held Saturday November 13, 2021 at 5:00 pm at the First Baptist Church Vanceburg, Kentucky with Dr. Howard Wilson officiating. Interment will be in the Armstrong cemetery Vanceburg, Kentucky.
Gaydos Funeral Home is in charge of all arrangements for Janice Esham Walden.
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