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Meet Janet McNally, Resident at Carillon Assisted Living of Hendersonville, Who Has a Most Colorful History

The bright lights, picturesque sites and colorful characters of Paris are world-renowned, but for many they are only images in photographs and films. Janet McNally has walked the city’s streets, sipped coffee at its cafes and enjoyed its ever-present music.

McNally, who has lived at Carillon’s Hendersonville facility since last December, visited France’s capital while on assignment as an art designer with one of America’s largest manufacturers.

“I just fell in love with Paris; a lot of people do,” says the native of Cumberland, Maryland. “I loved the setting and getting on a boat and going down the Seine River. I loved to take a dinner cruise and see the city from the river. It’s a beautiful place.”

Though she grew up in the hustle and bustle of New York City, McNally is a nature lover. She learned to love the outdoors living on her grandfather’s 300-acre dairy farm in western New York. She and her mother stayed there while Janet’s father was training to be an intelligence officer in World War II.

Wherever she lived, though, McNally loved to draw. Her parents gave the talented youngster her first set of crayons at the age of 3. Even her scribbles were in colorful patterns of blues, reds and greens.

“When I got older and could draw, I loved nature too,” Janet says. “I mostly drew nature scenes—landscapes with brooks, animals and flowers. I still do that. When I paint, I paint landscapes.”

Her childhood desire to become an artist eventually led her to enroll at Syracuse University, located about 75 miles from her grandfather’s farm. After earning her art degree and graduating with honors, she returned to New York and became an apprentice with International Design Associates (IDA).

While she started out designing dinnerware, IDA produced patterns for everything from toys and sheets to furniture and teapots.

She was good at her craft, as evidenced by her later landing a position at the Wamsutta division of M. Lowenstein & Sons, a major textile manufacturer. She worked her way up from designer to supervising a staff of six artists. Janet also worked with customers on designs, which took her around the U.S. and even to Europe, where she researched designs emerging from that continent.

Ironically, McNally spent so much time visiting textile plants in North Carolina to oversee manufacturing processes that she wound up moving here in the late 1980s. Her reputation and experience allowed her to continue making a living as a freelance designer.

Whether it involves art, music, acting or other fields, making a living from a creative endeavor can be challenging. While still in college, her parents—who had moved from New York to Chicago—tried to persuade her to move there after graduation so she could study for her master’s degree.

“My father was determined to make a teacher out of me and I didn’t want to be a teacher,” Janet says with a chuckle. “I wanted to be an artist. I didn’t want to do anything else. So I went to New York and worked hard at it. I attribute my success to hard work and determination.”

Although retired, McNally remains active. A fall last October that broke her hip led to a short-term stay in a nursing home. While she was recovering, though, a pipe burst in her home. Water ran through the house for a week before someone discovered the damage.

With renovations scheduled to take a long time, the nursing home suggested she consider coming to Carillon. So, for the time being her art and memories will enliven the Hendersonville home.

“She’s a pleasure and interesting to talk to,” says Executive Director Tiffni Baxley. “Everyone enjoys her art. She’s done several pieces that are on display in our media room.”

McNally feels lucky that her talent made it possible for her to make a living. She is comfortable in retirement, too, and appreciates that Carillon allows her cat, Jewel, to live with her.

“I think happiness in life is contentment,” she says. “I feel satisfied with the life I’ve led. I feel happy and can do pretty much what I want to do.”

Posted in Sage Stories on April 11, 2017

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