In the eyes of Janie Gass, writing is more than just a creative outlet. It is a way of sharing her heart with the world in hopes of making it a better place.
“If my ability to write makes it easier for someone to understand topics such as education and faith in a more creative way, I believe that makes it important,” said Janie.
As a girl, Janie grew up in the Middle Springs community – a sub community of Jefferson City, Tennessee. She was raised by her mother and father with her two older siblings on a small country farm. Every summer, she and her brother and sister would walk to their grandmother’s house on the farm to stay with her during the day while their parents worked.
“It was such an enjoyment for us,” said Janie. “I remember when I would first arrive at her house, I would always ask her ‘Can I have a jelly biscuit?’ We would always help her with canning and cleaning jars. And there was always time for an adventure in the woods, especially swinging on the grape vines!”
Janie developed her love of writing from a young age. First, it started small as she began to write little notes and poems to her grandmother. She even wrote a poem for her mother’s birthday one year titled “A Heart Full of Love for Mother.” But as time went on, her love of writing began to grow as she began her teaching career.
After graduating from Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Janie moved to Florida, and she took her first teaching job as a physical education instructor. But she didn’t stay there for long. Soon, she moved back to Tennessee where she reconnected with her childhood classmate, Ken Gass. After a while, the two became married and began their lives together. During this time, Janie worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and then as a kindergarten teacher and assistant professor of college algebra at Roane State Community College in Harriman, Tennessee.
“I love the students and their desire to learn” said Janie. “We just had fun together!”
During this time, Janie began writing study guides and other materials to help her students who were having trouble in class. She always made sure to encourage them and provide them with all the tools they needed to succeed.
In addition, Janie wrote and illustrated her own books that she dedicated to her grandchildren, Wesley and Jennifer. For Wesley, she wrote “The Vowel Sounds” to help him improve his reading skills. He loved the book so much that he took it to school one day, and he was excited when his teacher asked if she could copy pages of it to use as curriculum in her classroom. After that, Janie wrote “The Consonant Sounds” to follow her first book, along with another book called “The Breathless Boy.” In this book, Janie named the main character after Wesley.
“I wrote ‘The Breathless Boy’ so that he could read a book with is name in it,” she smiled.
For Jennifer, Janie wrote a book called “Don’t Cry, Mary Anne” about the “Mary Anne” doll her granddaughter once lost on an airplane.
“Jennifer loved having her a book of her very own,” Janie remembered.
She also wrote a book called “God’s Beautiful World” to give to her friend’s first grandchild as a gift.
After Janie and her husband retired and moved to Morristown, Tennessee, they began attending the First United Methodist Church. Soon, she became inspired to share her personal testimony about salvation by writing her book “The Secret I Never Told.”
“I was looking toward the pulpit one day, and there behind it was a picture that reminded me about my salvation at Mill Springs,” said Janie. “It was a secret I hadn’t told for 50 years.”
Janie eagerly began writing her book, and she completed most of it about 25 years ago. She was recently adding the final touches to it when Ken suffered from two severe strokes. It was this sequence of events that brought Ken and Janie to live at Garden Plaza of Cleveland and Life Care Center of Cleveland. Three months after moving to Cleveland, Ken passed away, and Janie took time to heal before finishing her book.
Now, Janie has begun working on book again. She has written most of the epilogue and intends to complete it soon.
“I hope that the books I have written stir emotions and feelings that open doors for people they never thought would open and help people of all ages learn and understand,” said Janie.
For Janie, the stories have always been a part of her, as if written on her heart. But it’s how she’s shared them with the world that has made all the difference.
“If there’s an angel on earth, it’s my mom,” said Janie’s son, Dennis. “She’s just above and beyond.”