It’s very important this week to revisit last week and note the significant impact that the late Janice Meincke had on the community of Wilton.
When preparing our obituaries in last week’s May 7 edition, upon seeing the top two obits on page 7, I think it would be safe to say that never has two more prominent women been atop that page. Alongside the obit of Thelma Nopoulos, who we dubbed the matriarch of Wilton, was Janice Meincke of Walcott — who was as close to a Wilton resident as you’ll ever find.
Meincke passed away April 28 at the age of 95, but she’ll be forever remembered for her wonderful financial gifts to several projects in the city of Wilton.
Anyone who visits the Wilton Public Library & Community Center will see her name in several prominent places. She donated more than $300,000 to the library and community center project over the years.
In the beginning of the project, Janice put forth an initial contribution that helped provide funds needed to produce the original literature on the project. It was her donation that gave the library an electronic sign (in 2015). With the entire K-12 Wilton campus now located across the street from the library, hundreds of people per day drive past that sign with Janice’s name on it.
She would always ask how fundraising was going with the project and, in the end, made the final sizeable donation to help get the project over the hump. In fact, it was reported, coincidentally in the same issue of the Advocate News containing her obit last week, that due to her huge contribution, the library and community center project will be paid in full in June when bonds are eligible for early payback.
The library wing of the city’s beautiful building also prominently exhibits her name. It was dedicated in December 2015 when a reception was held in her honor. The wing was then named the Janice Meincke Library. “She’s not from this community but she chose to donate here out of the goodness of her heart," said Betty Cram at the time, who was on the library board and helped with fundraising for the project.
She may not have been from Wilton, but in July of 2016 she was named an honorary citizen of Wilton, when she received an in-home visit from Wilton mayor Bob Barrett, who presented her with a plaque noting her honorary citizenship.
She also made donations to allow the library to pay for the genealogical research package it provides for people to use while researching on computers during library visits.
Reading and education was very important to Janice. The Janice Meincke Scholarship Fund was created in her honor, and it awards two scholarships per year to Wilton students.
She’s also made donations and memorials to Wilton’s nursing home facility over the years.
If that wasn’t enough, she’s the one who made the very large contribution (more than half a million dollars) to kick off the Wilton rec center initiative — a project of which I’m on the committee.
Following the library naming, Janice requested ideas for additional donations for Wilton. Submitted for her consideration included a dog park and/or concession stand. Janice said, “I want to do something bigger.” The idea of a rec center was proposed and she then made the lead donation.
Perhaps this only scratches the surface of her many gifts to our town. Again, I never knew her personally, yet I’ve heard and read her name countless times over the years as her philanthropy is all around us.
Her name and legacy will forever be felt in Wilton. I always heard through the years that it was the gratitude and friendliness of community leaders working on projects which she donated to that kept her coming back for more. As a lifelong Wilton resident, I’m sure I am not alone in feeling forever grateful she found our city so deserving of her philanthropic gifts. She’ll never be forgotten.
And, given my position, I’m sure I will revisit page 7 of the May 7, 2020 Advocate News several times in the coming years to re-read and reminisce about two of the most prominent “givers” and believers in Wilton we’ve ever known.