Janelle Nanavati

1975 - 2017

Janelle is survived by her sons William (6), Pierce (6), and Luke (3) and her husband of 12 years, Jay Nanavati. They were beloved. She was beloved.
  • 41 years old
  • Year of birth:  1975
  • Place of birth:  Cleveland, Ohio, United States
  • Year of passing:  2017
  • Place of passing:  Richmond, Virginia, United States
Carol Janelle Visnich Nanavati

Janelle Nanavati (nee Visnich) once dared all of her friends to walk on the James River Railway Bridge one warm summer night, certain based on questionable research that the train had long-since passed. She was wrong, and at her command, the group sprinted and hunkered down for safety with just seconds to spare before the train flew by. Janelle once leapt onto a motorcycle, left vacant and parked on a D.C. street, and threatened to fire it up and speed off into the night just after a work happy hour. She made the same threat four months ago when she came upon an abandoned bulldozer on the streets of Richmond. She once piled two infants, a dog, and a husband into her car and drove two hours from Arlington to Richmond to drop the dog and continue on with the rest to Florida to be with her brother in his final hours. And she once, just two days before her death, rallied the last of her strength to tell the medical staff at VCU Health that their nurses were “rockstars.”

Janelle Nanavati, 41, passed away on March 10 in Richmond, Virginia. The cause of her death was breast cancer. She is survived by her sons William (6), Pierce (6), and Luke (3) and her husband of 12 years, Jay Nanavati.

Janelle’s boys were her everything. All four of them. She fretted about Pierce’s mischievousness and ability to feel things more deeply than his young mind could process, but she couldn’t help but laugh at the way he negotiated his way out of trouble. He is, after all, so much Visnich. She adored Will’s shyness and content acceptance of whatever was in front of him and wondered if she should drive him out of his shell, but he is a Nanavati, and so peacefully okay with life, so what can you do? And then there’s baby Luke, the perfect blend of both Janelle and Jay - so smart and articulate and loving and open. She just wanted to press him to her, even hatching a plan to prevent him from ever growing up and moving out of the house.

Jay Nanavati was the love of her life, from the first moment she met him late in her sophomore year of college. He was her equal in everything – he was the only person she ever met who was as smart as she, and she loved him with everything in her. He made her laugh, and think, and strive to be more.  And she did the same for him.

She loved to relay anecdotes in mock-outrage of the shocking and hilarious things Jay said – to friends, neighbors, and medical health professionals. Janelle was beloved, by everyone who knew her. She collected people her entire life and hung on to friends – best friends – from elementary school all the way through her professional life – each and every one of them certain that Janelle was their one true best friend, and it was always true.

For Janelle, though, Jay was hers. He was her person. Her beloved. She loved him with everything in her and they had a marriage of love, laughter, and conversation.

Janelle was fun, funny, brilliant and beautiful. Janelle was generous – with her time, her money, her energy, and her love. Her family – and the friends who became her family – were the center of her life. There was no distance too far to travel to celebrate a friend or family member, no amount of balancing motherhood and chemotherapy that was too much for her to remember to send a care package to family going through something far less severe.

Janelle was born in Cleveland, Ohio on November, 24, 1975. The family moved to Richmond in 1985 and Janelle grew up in Chesterfield County, surrounded by friends who would cleave to her for the rest of her life. It would be a theme – Janelle racking up friends and forging life-long relationships wherever she went. Janelle got her B.A. in English literature at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, before returning to Richmond for her MSW at Virginia Commonwealth University and then moving to Washington, D.C., to launch her career at Catholic Charities while doing her Ph.D. work at Catholic University. Janelle and Jay married in 2005 and returned to Richmond in 2013 and moved to Ginter Park.

Her career followed her passion and spirit of helping others. Through her work at Special Olympics International and Catholic Charities she helped write policy and worked with advocacy and programs for the population with disabilities.

Janelle was preceded in death by her brother, Lance. She is also survived by her mother Debra Mak, her father and stepmother, Michael and Belinda Visnich, her brother Shayne Visnich, three nephews, two nieces, two sisters-in-law, a brother-in-law and scores of friends scattered across the country who loved her like family.

The funeral service will be in Richmond on Friday, March 17 at noon at The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (800 S. Cathedral Place). 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Janelle's name to Special Olympics or Catholic Charities.

Memorial Tributes
Candle lit by Deborah Wofsey on March 12th, 2017

This is a beautiful tribute. I knew Janelle through her father and step-mother (my sister). I was only able to spend a brief amount of time with her. Janelle was a beautiful person. She has left a lasting impression on everyone that knew her.

Candle lit by Sadia Khaliq on March 12th, 2017

Although I never knew you my heart is broken for you and your loved ones.  I knew Jay many years ago.  I pray for him and your children to be ok.  Sounds like you were an amazing wife and mom and person to everyone.  May you Rest In Peace.

Candle lit by Barb Stover on March 13th, 2017

What a rich and thoughtful tribute. What a beautiful life! It is so tragic that such a vibrant, accomplished person like Janelle would leave us too soon. However, we will never forget her. We will never forget her beautiful smile. We will never forget her benevolent, caring soul.

Candle lit by Don&Judy Richwine on March 13th, 2017

Jay, we really only knew you as a child but our love, thoughts and prayers go out to you and your boys. The Richwines

Candle lit by Vicki Ford on March 13th, 2017

Jay, God Bless you and your boys.  I am so sorry that Janelle had to suffer through all that is associated with fighting cancer only to lose her battle.  She sounds like a wonderful wife, mother, and friend to all of those who knew her, and I know she will be missed. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.  Love to all, Vicki Ford  (J. R. Tucker H. S.)

Candle lit by melissa hoban on March 13th, 2017

Janelle and I became friends while we were both at VCU and we bonded over both going to CHHS. She was such a wonderful person and am so glad that i got to know her. She had the best sense of humor that i loved and was she was so so smart.  I loved seeing pictures of her family on facebook and am so sad that she is no longer with us. I am so sorry for your loss.

Candle lit by Kiki Hayes on March 14th, 2017

I am so sorry for your loss. She was a beautiful young woman.

Candle lit by Jennifer Cristman on March 14th, 2017

Deepest sympathy. You are in my thoughts and prayers. My love to you and your family. Love Jenny Cristman

Candle lit by Jean Washburn on March 14th, 2017

Dear Jay, my heart aches for you and your family.  I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful Janelle.  You and your sons are in my thoughts and prayers.
Your mom's friend, Jean Washburn

Candle lit by Dawn Goodmark on March 15th, 2017

My first memory of Janelle is when she came to visit my home back when my now 18 year old son was 2. She played with him, giving him horsey rides on her back...he, of course loved her. I met her through my brother in law (her father) Mike and sister in law Belinda ( my husbands sister). I later saw her married and become a mother. She was a very sweet and loving person. She willbe missed.

Candle lit by Rich Rolwing on March 15th, 2017

So sorry for you loss my old friend. There are no words...You and your family are in my prayers.  

Rich Rolwing

Candle lit by Bette Gilchrist on March 15th, 2017

I am so happy that Janelle was Jay's wife and the Mother of his children.
The love,patience, kindness, wisdom and humor she brought to the family were a joy to behold.  I am confident that these qualities will go with my Son, Jay, and my Grandsons, Pierce, Will and Luke as long as they live.

Candle lit by Dickson Young on March 16th, 2017

Jay I was never fortunate enough to meet your wife. How happy I am for you that you were able to spend the years with the love of your life and have your children. It's heartbreaking all the more when you care so deeply. Find comfort in your family and friends and the knowledge that her suffering has ended. Djy and your friends in fairfax

Candle lit by Stephen Sheehy on March 16th, 2017

Jay, My wife Sharon and I extend our deepest sympathies to you and your boys as well as your wife's family.  We will keep you in our prayers. If there is anything we can do to help please call me (703-598-4493).  
Steve Sheehy

Candle lit by Karen L Davis on March 16th, 2017

Janelle was a treasure. We 1st met at Kennedy Institute (KI), where she mastered writing grant proposals, a talent that benefited so many people less fortunate. We met next when she was PD of Project Peer (KI + 7 partners), supporting women with disabilities who had survived sexual and domestic violence. Honest, sensitive, caring -- & organized! -- she was the perfect leader! We miss her!

Candle lit by Michaela Farber on March 17th, 2017

Janelle was a wonderful woman. Janelle and I got to know each other through Kennedy Institute and my training project at Children's on disabilities. She also became my doctoral student at CUA, and I had the privilege to guide her dissertation. Her love of life, sensitivity, and caring for others touched me and taught me, and I will treasure forever. May her family thrive and be protected!

Candle lit by Lee Gillespie-White on March 17th, 2017

I met Janelle when I worked with her at Special Olympics.  Janelle was a hugely gracious and lovely woman, whose gifts in life, including those she made to Special Olympics through her intellect and commitment to Special Olympics athletes' health, will always serve as a reminder of how important it is to live well, in service and in love. May her dear soul rest in peace.

Candle lit by LaQuita Brooks on March 17th, 2017

Words cannot express how deeply sorry I am to hear about Janelle's passing.   But I hope you can find comfort in knowing that "God will wipe out every tear from our eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore." Revelation 21:4
LaQuita Brooks(KeyKey)

Candle lit by Michelle Gentry on March 17th, 2017

I worked with Janelle at Kennedy Institute and we became quick friends. She had an amazing work-ethic and was so smart and dedicated. She was a beautiful soul, and I will always remember her ability to make everyone smile. Her life was too short, but so very meaningful. I am so very sorry for your loss.
Michelle Gentry

Candle lit by bob whitestone on March 18th, 2017

Jay, Inexplicably, the worst things happen to the best people. No words
can express how I feel about your loss. If I can be of help in any way
please do not hesitate to call. Bob Whitestone

Candle lit by Allan Garten on March 22nd, 2017

Jay, I am heartbroken for you. From our time together I know how much you loved Janelle. No words will ever be able adequately capture the loss that I know you feel. I'm so terribly sorry for you. Allan

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