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Janis Irvine Corbin was born to George and Verla Irvine on October 11, 1937, in Hutchinson, Kansas. Growing up in the small Kansas farming community of Stafford, this striking dark-haired beauty was an academic force. In speech classes and debates, Janis spoke forthrightly, enunciating each word. She learned the importance of amplifying her voice and empowering other female voices.
In college, Janis joined the Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority and was appointed to Phi Kappa Phi Honors for academic excellence. She gave an oration to the student body and produced and directed an award-winning one-act play. In 1959, Janis graduated from her parent’s Alma Mater, Kansas State University.
Janis married Richard Corbin, and together they adopted their three children, David, Alan, and Sharon. This family of five lived in the cities of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Summit, New Jersey; and Houston, Texas. Houston became their home, and Memorial Drive United Methodist became their church.
In 1985 she would be forced to leave behind pieces of the life that once was the dream. And like the Cowardly Lion, she found the courage to embark on a personal journey through change and loss. The trek down the yellow brick road began with a complete lifestyle change. Rising early, traveling 40 miles a day (jamming to Billy Idol), and late nights studying. Pursuing her master’s degree was a triumph of taking the lemon of alcoholism and turning it into a fabulous lemonade. After a year of emotional and spiritual growth, Janis gained confidence with each passing day, and a new sense of self emerged. She discovered a capable, competent, caring, compassionate woman equipped with a new purpose after graduating from the University of Houston with a master’s degree in social work. Ms. Janis Corbin, MSW-CSW. Also, as an active member of the American Association of University Women, Janis supported the advocacy for women’s career advancement and pursuit of higher education.
After divorcing, she sipped her Lipton iced tea, cigarette resting on the ashtray, and turned to her cat Tigger and said, “Tigger, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” The winds of change blew again with new roles as a grandmother, mother-in-law, and divorced, independent woman. Janis rose to meet the challenges with the tremendous support and encouragement of the friendships built in Women for Sobriety. Always willing to help one another, bonded together in overcoming alcoholism and addiction, Janis continued the hard work of adjusting to all the changes life brought.
Janis was present for the birth of the first of six grandchildren. Sharing the birth of Rachel with her daughter Sharon, Janis described it as a “peak life experience”. An everlasting bond was formed when cradling the newborn Rachel in her arms. Another granddaughter would soon follow, Kayla, with whom she would share a birthday. Then, there was D.J., the grandson. Grammy would masterfully craft questions that brought out the personality in this reserved young man. Grandson Travis was always the gentleman lending his arm to steady her as we made our way to the Christmas Eve service. Caroline shared her love for reading and her gift for the written word. The youngest of the bunch, Jeremiah, had a mutual love of sweets and always visited Grammy’s famous candy drawer.
A master conversationalist combined with a witty sense of humor, she could speak on any topic and connect with anyone of any age. Her grandchildren in their younger years loved the “toy room” in Grammy’s house. It had a thoughtful curation of toys and an expansive library of children’s books. She worked to instill her love of reading by always reading a book to her grandchildren during visits. It brought her amusement when people inquired about her vastly different collections from her love of the Wizard of Oz, and windmills, to Elvis, pink flamingos, Beanie Babies, snow globes, and artwork of Vincent Van Gogh.
Sobriety and recovery turned her life from black and white to beautiful colors, overcoming fear, taking risks, and facing loneliness. Janis discovered her meaningful purpose was to put her experience, education, talents, knowledge, and wisdom to help others. The inner voice exclaiming, “Lions and Tigers, and Bears! Oh, My,” was now seldom heard. A nurturing voice ushered in a season of peace, serenity, and self-confidence. She learned to depend on herself and ask for help when needed. She recognized herself as a child of the universe worthy of love and loving in return. Janis found her purpose in giving back to the recovery community as a lifelong member of Women for Sobriety serving on its National Board. Her recovery story is shared in Anne M. Fletcher’s book Sober For Good and several other publications. May the story of “Jessica C” continue to inspire others.
During her many years in recovery, Janis’ legacy was helping women overcome addictions with caring and compassion. She deeply understood that the needs of women battling addiction were unique and fostered a program that emphasized sobriety and recovery are strengthened through the connection with others. When she left the hospital late at night in June thirty-eight years ago, the “most likely to succeed” medal was awarded to Janis. This symbol represented that she possessed all the tools needed to take action. The small-town Kansas girl had finally realized that her internal critic was no longer great and powerful. She emerged a confident, competent woman who shared her lessons of sobriety and recovery until the end.
Illness robbed her body, but her mind remained sharp. She will be missed by her iPad word game opponent “Charles”. On Saturday, April 8, Janis Irvine Corbin passed away surrounded by family. She was preceded in death by her mother and father; daughter, Sharon Corbin; and grandson, Travis Corbin.
She is survived by her; son, David and wife, Nadine Corbin; son, Alan and wife, Michelle Corbin; grandchildren, Jeremiah, Kayla, Caroline, and D.J. Corbin, and Rachel and husband Sam Ross; great-grandsons Tyrael-James and Azrael-James Ross; and sister, Joleen Hill.
A Celebration of Life will be held Friday, May 12, in the Memorial Oaks Pecan Chapel, with a visitation at 10:00 a.m. prior to the service at 11:00 a.m.
As Dorthy said, “There’s no place like home”. Janis will return to her birthplace of Kansas and will be interred alongside her mother and father in the Stafford Cemetery.