Sunday, February 12, 2012
We are here to celebrate the life and anniversary of a truly amazing woman, Janey Hatfield,who many of us considered the spiritual mayor of Napa Valley. Twenty-one years ago, I had
the distinguished honor of hiring then Jane Fairley, as the administrative assistant for the
V Marketplace. Her interview went brilliantly. She walked in with years of experience in the
fast paced insurance industry. My first impression, this was a mature, no nonsense lady who
would, without a doubt, keep us on the straight and narrow. A hard-nosed task master who’d
laugh in the face of conflict and confrontation. An individual whose ability to focus on the
objectives of the company would never waiver under her iron will. Needless to say… this was
not a lasting impression. And thank goodness for that!
We soon realized that we had found someone whose true personality and individual attributes
could not have been better suited. Janey didn’t fill the position at V Marketplace, she WAS the
position. She embodied the very essence of the place. The eternal optimist, she also had an
amazing gift for what I like to think of as spiritual optometry. Upon first meeting Janey, she
had the ability to fit you with a pair of rose colored glasses – to help you, if even for a brief
period, start to see the world in a very different light. This was her blessing and her gift.
From the time that Janey became the information specialist at the V Marketplace front desk,
barely a day would go by when the afternoon wrap-up conversation with Janey didn’t start
with a signature statement like, “You know, I met the most delightful couple today.” For Janey,
meeting new people was always a delight, always an adventure.
You see, her title information specialist wasn’t just information about the shops, region,
hotels and restaurants… it was information about EVERYTHING - you, Yountville, the
universe, the circle of life, and how that all related to your experience in Napa Valley. Getting
information about a shop or a restaurant – that was just an added bonus. As a visitor, you
didn’t just come away from Janey informed, but rather, transformed. That was part of the
magic that Janey worked with each and every interaction she had.
A conversation with Janey was somewhat like a vacation. First, you had to set aside a little
time, because it could take some twists and turns that you didn’t expect. But if you allowed
yourself the time, you came away enlightened, and feeling like you stepped off the hamster
wheel if only for a few minutes, to enjoy the experience of the conversation. That was Janey…
and it was great!
With a memory like an elephant, Janey never forgot anything. Her recollection for people,
places, stories, and the most discreet details were incomparable. In relating those facts
to others, this was always apparent. Once she knew you, Janey was always quick to share
a story that was chosen for you. If you loved dogs, she had a story about dogs she may
have encountered. If you loved music, she might select something from her musical story
repertoire. If you loved Australians, (and I married one, so I did) she’d tell you about some
terrific Aussie’s she met at the Marketplace. Basically, Janey was always focused on something
that might bring delight to you.
You’re familiar with the expression six degrees of separation? Well, as most of you know, with
Janey, it was more like three. She had the uncanny ability to make life connections that could
span time, the globe, and somehow find its way to the information booth at V Marketplace. As
Colonel Mustard recently wrote in the Yountville Sun, “Janey somehow knew something about
everyone.” He couldn’t have been more spot on. It was always amazing how many people
connections Janey could make, catalog and then recite without flaw. Sometimes it seemed that
everyone, in someway was either a long-time friend, or long lost acquaintance. In Janeyspeak
she might refer to having met the friend to a cousin, whose best friend was the grandparent
of the godfather of the young man who she knew in Marin as a child, who also used to spend
vacation time at Clear Lake, who happened to meet his future wife while having a glass of
wine at the bar at Piatti in Yountville, and ended up spending their honeymoon at Vintage Inn.
This was VERY common. And she’d wrap the story with a statement like… “Isn’t that just the
funniest thing – isn’t that just a hoot?” You would of course stare in amazement that such a
perfect small world scenario had just unfolded without effort before you like a blossoming
rose. This was a most astounding, but a regular occurrence we fondly termed a Jayneyism.
Some might say such things should be cataloged in a journal of psychological phenomena.
However, I came to learn that Janey discovered such amazing connections because she did
something that has been lost to the pace of our modern world – she took time to engage
people, to ask questions… she took time to listen to what people had to say. And she loved it.
And that was Janey.
In she and Don’s home, they regularly took in family, students, visiting artists, chefs, and a
variety of strays – human and otherwise. Truly, there were no strangers in Janey’s life, only
people she had not yet met. She welcomed everyone who entered her life with an open and
welcoming spirit. Everyone had a story to tell, and Janey always embraced the opportunity to
Janey was an eternal optimist and it was very catching. I recall the first year of the Yountville
Festival of Lights. While later years would host thousands throughout town, the first year was
pretty lean. There we stood around a tiny decorated tree, perhaps no more than 100 people.
Me with an electrical plug in each hand; two feet firmly on soggy, puddled muddy grass,
waiting to meet my maker when I joined the plugs together to light the tree. Not quite what I
had hoped for. But there was Janey, saying, “Stephen, how delightful that people came out for
the event. I know this is going to gain popularity – they tell their friends about this magical
little town – and just wait to see what happens in the coming years.” As always, Janey’s
optimism won out.
And Janey’s six degrees of separation somehow would often have a way of swooping in at just
the right time. To wit, somewhere around the 5th year of the Fathers Day Auto Show, we had a
beautiful Jaguar that illegally parked overnight in the V Marketplace parking lot in the middle
of where a special exhibition was to be. The time comes to place the exhibitor cars and the
Jaguar owner has still not shown up to move their car. Steve makes the call to have the car
towed on a flatbed to clear the space for the show cars. Needless to say, the Jaguar owner,
who’d been out on an early morning balloon flight, goes ballistic when he comes back and
his car is gone. First he threatens to sue, then he encounters Janey – who learns that he’s an
orthopedic surgeon, who just happens to be acquainted with her brother, Gavin, who lived on
Vancouver Island in British Columbia… and before you know it, Janey paves the way for Steve
to offer a complimentary stay at Vintage Inn, and everything’s okay. A magical fix that would
have absolutely put Mary Poppins to shame!
I also recall when she first met a young firebrand of an artist named Don Hatfield. For Janey,
Don completed her life, as she did his. Their only regret was that they didn’t have more time
together. Their relationship was one of love, passion and respect for the gifts that they shared
with each and brought to everyone who knew them. Sally and I were fortunate to be some of
the many recipients.
I know that Janey’s earthly skills will be put to tremendous use beyond those great heavenly
gates. A place where she encounters friends, family and the “loveliest of couples” all day long.
I will miss Janey more than I can say. She was one of those unique people who you thought
would outlive everyone. While that was not to be, Janey Hatfield left a lovingly indelible mark
on everyone who she touched. To know her was to love her. To love her was to be changed…
in a most curious and wondrous way. You’ll always be in our hearts, Janey. We love you. ###