Tribute: Christman cared about people, Darke County


GREENVILLE — Janey Christman, social worker and director of the Community Action Partnership (CAP) for 40 years or so, gained the respect of her peers and is being missed by family, friends and co-workers. She died September 11 after her battle with cancer.

After her first bout with cancer, she reportedly went into remission, and came back, only to have it flare up once again.

“Her husband, John, was right there with her through the whole thing,” said Julie Bragg-Lecklider, who has taken over as county director of Community Action Partnership, a title Christman held for nearly 40 years or so.

Lecklider came to CAP in 1997, left at the end of 2000, and came back in 2003.

“Janey was a great mentor,” she said. “She was an amazing person. Her philosophy was always helping people and changing lives and never judging anybody ‘because you don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life’. Anything she could to bring to Darke County she did to make it better. I miss her. I talked to Janey before I took this position and she inspired me. She was a fighter. My kids miss her. We are all like family here. My son would sit in her chair and talk o her. She had a huge impact on my kids.”

Carol Littman, another CAO employee, has worked for the agency sinc3 1904, but knew Christman before that.

“We go way back,” Littman said, tearing up. “She was more than a boss. She was a good listener. If we had something going on with our parents or kids were sick, she’d say ‘Go.’ She was amazing. ‘Asinine’ was one of her favorite words. We miss that. I miss her terribly. She was a wonderful person. I loved her. I got yelled at a couple of times but I deserved it 100 percent.”

Denise Purnhagen, who works in the transportation part of CAP, said she has known Christman for five years.

“I got a job here delivering meals,” Purnhagen said. “She was a really good person, very considerate, thoughtful and always had great concerns for me and my family. She really had a great drive for helping seniors. She was quite supportive when I went from the meals program to transportation. How in-depth she had gotten in these programs to bring them to Darke County. Up until the day she stopped working here, she tried to bring programs here for seniors.”

Purnhagen went on, “When I was in transportation, I called her Miss Ellie, and she asked me why I did that. I said, ‘You run CAP like Miss Ellie runs Southfork [from the “Dallas” television series]. She and I had a special relationship. I confided in her.”

“I started at the end of 2015,” said Kristalyn Bush. “Janey hired me as a case manager/transportation. She was one of a kind for sure. I was scared of her when I first started. She was very intimidating, but she was strong-willed. She was always looking for ways to help people. I remember most her laugh. It was a contagious laugh. You would hear that and just laugh with her. She was a big part of this office, and a little piece of us died in this office. I feel like I knew her longer than I did and I wish I could have known her longer. She was fun…a sweetheart. She definitely will be missed for sure.”

“I’ve known Janey since I was a child, because my dad [Pat] worked here,” said Tonya Estell. “I remember her always happy and just loved people. I’ve worked here 15 years. She hired me. She was an amazing boss. There is no one else like Janey. If you wanted to vent, you could go to Janey. She had a heart of gold. You can’t do that with all bosses. She made me feel like family.”

Elaine Harter, who works in the Metropolitan program, said she started at CAP in June 2014.

“She was such a sweet lady; God bless her,” said Harter. “She was a good boss and easy to talk to. She was always friendly. There was easy to get along with and easily approachable. The first few days I came here and she came off like she could be intimidating until you got to know her. She had that booming voice. She was great to work with and I’m very blessed. She was a good teacher. I miss her.”

Christman hired Birdi Arbaugh a year and a half ago.

“Janey was so special,” said Arbaugh. “She was so good to me for just starting, but she was good to everybody. She always had time to listen to problems. She was right there on it. I was lucky to be able to know her in that short time. I wish I’d known her a lot longer. All of the time, Janey was going 100 miles an hour and never missed a beat, even in illness. She was so good and serious about her work. She left an imprint on everybody she came in contact even if it was for a short time.”

Annie Sonner had this to say about her friend: “Janey was an exceptional person; and all the great words that can be spoken belong to her. She spent her entire life caring about people;and serving others. She had a magical way of making everyone feel special. I have been friends with Janey for many years…we were classmates. She was that special friend I could go to when I needed to vent. We would try to solve all of life’s problems…laugh and compare stories…just share life in general. She would not allow me to throw the towel in! She could kick me in the butt and I would leave and keep on trying. We shared many of life’s experiences. I always felt better when I left her house. The last time I was there and left, I got in my truck and said ‘God please don’t let Janey die — I don’t think I can stand it.’ Well she died.and I am having a very hard time pulling the nose of my plane up. I will never find another friend like Janey. She was a very uniquely private person with many friends, yet she always made ME feel special, like she did everyone else.I feel I am a better person for knowing her. She loved the Lord and her family. I think of the story where the man was walking on the beach picking up starfish and throwing them back out into the water; to me, Janey represents all the starfish that he threw out that made a difference in this community. My heart breaks for her husband and son’s loss, but they too were blessed by her love.”

Darla Bowman Miller remarked, “I worked for Janey twice; once for Greenville Transit and most recently for CAP, as a data intake specialist for HEAP. Janey was a phenomenal leader and was very good at her job. She didn’t know a stranger in our community and was very eager to help those in need. We joked between us because of our height difference; her being short, and me being tall. And she also always told me, ‘I didn’t do it!’ I can promise that if there are phones in heaven, Janey won’t let them ring more than twice before she’ll answer it! I’m sure all of my former co-workers will vouch for that! She was amazing to me when I lost my mom while working there, was very compassionate and went out of her way to see that I was OK. I will always carry fond memories of Janey in my heart. She definitely was one in a million and will be greatly missed.”

Even corporate had the respect for Christman as the local do.

John T. “Tim” Donnellan, CAP’s president and CEO, said he is still sad about the news of her death.

Here is what he wrote to his board of trustees and staff: “It is with profound sadness that I write to tell you of the passing of Elizabeth Jane (Janey) Christman. Janey retired last December after 40 years of service, many of which were spent as our Darke County director. The 40 years were indeed very meaningful years for our agency, for Darke County, and especially for the low income communities that were served. Janey was a strong leader, a lion-hearted advocate for our customers, and indeed a local treasure. Under her direction and because of her deep commitment to our agency’s mission many innovative and still highly successful programs were initiated. These include the Metropolitan Housing Authority, the Greenville Transit System, the Emergency Shelter, the acquisition of a Salvation Army unit as well as two housing units: Willow Place and Fox Run. Other important programs in Darke County under Janey’s leadership were managed with high competence and effectiveness.

“Janey had very unique and impressive leadership skills. She was fair and demanding. She set high standards while always mentoring and helping to develop members of her staff. She was always trustworthy and honest and enjoyed the respect of her colleagues, community leaders, sister agencies and the high regard of the many community members who sought assistance from our agency. We are all fortunate that some of our time on this earth was shared with some of Janey’s time.

“When reflecting on Janey’s life and its many accomplishments, when we remember her ever present smile and positive attitude, when we recall the pure joy that was part of who she was the words of the novelist come to mind, ‘to live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die’.”

Courtesy photo Janey Christman, second from left, is shown with three other present and past CAP employees at Fairlawn in July. It was the last time they got together. Shown with her are, from left, MaryAnn Ridenour, Melissa Sparks and Julie Lecklider. photo Janey Christman, second from left, is shown with three other present and past CAP employees at Fairlawn in July. It was the last time they got together. Shown with her are, from left, MaryAnn Ridenour, Melissa Sparks and Julie Lecklider.

By Linda Moody

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This writer may be reached at 937-569-4315. Follow her on Facebook and join the conversation and get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to

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