Janette Hansen Strathy had delivered at least 6,500 babies over more than 30 years at the Park Nicollet Medical Center. But when asked to describe the feeling of bringing just one into the world, she looked back in astonishment.
“You cut that umbilical cord and you give that baby to the mother and father and they all have that same look of awe as they look at this new baby that’s their responsibility,” she recounted as she cradled the air between her arms in a video shot by a friend. “… They just look and they’re in love.”
Strathy, who cared for many of those babies as a physician and devoted much of her life to advocating for women’s health, died July 28 from complications related to ovarian cancer. She was 62.
Strathy’s zeal for advocacy was sparked by watching a close friend endure an unwanted pregnancy in high school. Decades later, she testified in opposition of legislation dictating how physicians must counsel patients seeking abortions. One of just two female OB/GYNs when she began her career with Park Nicollet, Strathy eventually served as chair of the hospital’s Clinical Board of Governors and as the legislative chair for the Minnesota Section of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, where she held other leadership roles.
“As a physician, Jan, in addition to outstanding clinical skills, had the special ability to signal through her words, body language and action that ‘I am here for you and whatever happens I will be with you,’ ” said former Park Nicollet CEO and President David Abelson, who said Strathy delivered his two daughters and also treated his wife.
Both Strathy and her husband of nearly 40 years, Gregg Strathy, an orthopedic surgeon, spent their entire careers at Park Nicollet and met when they were studying medicine in Rochester. When not at work, the Lutsen native could usually be found with family retracing the North Shore. She also hiked the full length of the Superior Hiking Trail with one of her sisters and loved canoeing and fishing.
“She was also one of the most graceful skiers you would ever see,” Gregg Strathy said. “I could always pick her out coming down the hill.”
Janette joined her husband, who flies private airplanes, in the skies, earning a pilot’s license and later her private and instrument pilot ratings. Gregg borrowed a quote from his wife for her obituary to explain that she sought to “intelligently critique” him in the air.
Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015, Janette Strathy beamed in April as she watched more than $1,500 pour into a Facebook fundraiser for the Minnesota Ovarian Center Alliance that she started to coincide with her birthday.
The local division of Planned Parenthood also counted on Strathy as a staunch ally through the years.
“She was extraordinarily courageous and insightful, and she maintained her ethical commitment to women’s health throughout her life,” said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.
In the weeks before her death, Strathy witnessed her son become a father, described in her final letter to loved ones as “an especially wonderful time.” Strathy especially enjoyed watching Bryan push his daughter — named Alexandra Janette — down the hospital corridor in repeat of a ritual she had seen so many other times. The baby later donned the family’s baptismal gown inside Strathy’s home just three days before her grandmother died. By then, Strathy was in no shape to make it to a church, so a sister brought a jar each of water from Lake Superior and Strathy’s childhood lake, Tait Lake, for a dual baptism and blessing with family present.
“She was such a pillar for us,” Bryan Strathy said.
In addition to her husband, son and granddaughter, Strathy is survived by her mother, Susan Hansen, of Grand Marais; sisters Lee Bergstrom, of Grand Marais, and Ginny Foster, of Hopkinton, Mass.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Sept. 4 at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Edina.