Wakefield this week is mourning a woman who in her own quiet way helped make this village into a true community.
Janet Fraleigh Cahoone was not a public figure. She did not hold elective office, work for the town, or write letters to the editor. But she made an impact, keeping tabs on the life of the village and caring for its residents.
Though she hated to go “north of the Tower,” as she often joked in her Facebook posts, Janet lived deeply in the small world she cherished: her hometown of Narragansett and her adopted village of Wakefield.
If something was going on in either place, Janet somehow got wind of it. She used Facebook to connect with other people, care about their problems, and keep us all informed about local doings.
When I was editor of The Independent, I often learned of a public issue through Janet’s Facebook posts. Beyond her public concerns, she was a caring mother to four who watched over the village’s children as though they were her own.
From the time we moved to Woodruff Avenue in 1993, our lives were intertwined with the Cahoone family down the street on Columbia.
We cheered Janet and Wayne as they invested in downtown by building a new Graphic Expressions on Robinson Street and rehabbing nearby buildings.
When they were school age, the Cahoones’ daughter Abby and my daughter Mary became close friends and remain so to this day. They had many a play date and sometimes walked to school together (with Abby’s sister Sami always trailing behind).
When they got to high school, our teens had to pass the Cahoones’ house to get home. I knew no errant behavior would escape Janet’s notice.
Instead, she often took the opportunity to chat with my kids and would later report on how polite they were. That was Janet.
When my sister died suddenly, Janet came to the wake and gave me a hug. That simple gesture, so easy for some, was not easy for her, and it meant the world to me.
I regret I never took the time to tell her what a fine mother she was to Wayne Jr., MacKenzie, Abby and Sami. That her posts on Facebook kept us in touch with our community values. That she was in many ways the conscience of Wakefield.
It seems hard to believe that her voice has been stilled. That we will no longer witness her joy in her new granddaughter. That we will never again run into her at Bluebird on Friday nights, where the Cahoones often gathered at the corner table.
Janet Cahoone’s world may have been small, but her impact was immeasurable.
Betty J. Cotter