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Janet Elaine Obenchain

Janet Elaine (Higgins) Obenchain, 82, Woodstock, died Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, with the love of her family all around her. 

Elaine was born March 22, 1934, and grew up in Grand Rapids and East Grand Rapids, Mich., and Evanston, where she graduated from Evanston Township High School. She spent two years at DePauw University, where she was a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, from the University of Minnesota. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology in 1955. After college she moved back to Evanston and worked as a claims adjuster in Chicago. She met her husband, Ralph, on the Chicago & Northwestern commuter train. Their story about the train playing Cupid was written up in the Chicago Tribune. They married in October 1957 and began their life together in Evanston, moving to Wilmette in 1966 and rural Woodstock in 1980.

Elaine was a lifelong scholar and an accomplished writer who in 1977 published “The Complete Catalog of Ampico Reproducing Piano Rolls.” Later she wrote and illustrated a five-volume set of books on McHenry County cemeteries which was published by the McHenry County Illinois Genealogical Society. 

She loved animals, raising Rocky Mountain horses, many cats and beef calves. She was an avid flower and vegetable gardener and a gifted photographer who won several awards for her photos at the McHenry County Fair. She also was an avid fisherwoman, landing several muskies that weighed more than 20 pounds. 

She had many talents ranging from sewing her daughter’s wedding dress to reupholstering furniture to making the world’s best Yorkshire pudding. She led a vibrant and active life until the very end. In her later years she took on challenges such as translating Spanish-language books on Asturian horses into English and mastering pedal kayaking. Her greatest joy was watching her grandchildren learn to fish, tube, ski, play bean bag, shoot and drive tractors and boats at her rural home in Woodstock and her cottage in northern Wisconsin. She never gave up on muskie fishing, always hopeful that the next monster was just one more cast away.

She was the dearly loved wife of the late Ralph R. Obenchain Jr. for 57 years; beloved mother of R. Riley Obenchain, Edith Obenchain, Samuel (Denise) Obenchain and Valerie McLeer, all of Woodstock, and Abigail Obenchain (William Cole), Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; adored grandma to Mason and Avery Cole, Jax and Eli Obenchain, Krista and Sammy Obenchain and Milo and Skyler McLeer; cherished daughter of the late Janet and H. Ralph Higgins; and sister of Frances Proctor, Ridgefield, Wash., and Brian Higgins, Northville, Mich.; sister-in-law of Gloria O. Russell, Kansas City, Kan., Nancy Obenchain, Rogers, Ark., and Mary Higgins, Northville.

A celebration of Elaine’s life was held Jan. 7 at Schneider, Leucht, Merwin & Cooney Funeral Home, Woodstock. 

Donations can be made to the McHenry County Illinois Genealogical Society,

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