Janette van Slageren Ellis of Oak Harbor passed away on Aug. 31, 2017 after a valiant year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. She was born at home on July 10, 1932 to Martin and Antje (Akkerman) van Slageren in Hynes, Calif. (later renamed Paramount). Her sister Suzie joined the family in 1934. Melody and song have been a part of her life from the very beginning and at age 6 she began accordion lessons with a small 111-base accordion purchased from a traveling salesman. Within a year she could play the Beer Barrel Polka flawlessly.
In 1939, the family moved to Auburn, Wash. and five years later in March 1944, the family moved to Skagit Valley where her father bought a small dairy farm west of Mount Vernon. A few weeks after the move her sister Joan was born. Jan joined the Hugo Helmer Accordion Marching Band and remained a member until it disbanded at the time of Hugo’s death in 1953. She attended Avon School, Lincoln School and graduated as valedictorian from Mount Vernon High School in 1950. She attended Stanford University for one year. She married Al Koetje in 1953 after he returned from Air Force assignment in Japan during the Korean War. Janette worked for Larry Morse, CPA in Spokane for 4 years while Al attended Whitworth College. Daughter Alana Jan was born in 1957 in Spokane. After his graduation in 1958, they re-located to Oak Harbor where Al went into partnership with brother Henry Koetje. Son Randal Van was born in 1959 in Oak Harbor.
Jan joined the Holland Happening Committee in 1970 and served as its chairperson for 23 of the first 25 years of the event and was honored as Grand Marshal of the H.H. parade on two occasions. She also joined the All-Island Community Band, the revived Hugo Helmer Accordion Band, the Polka Dots Trio with Denman Moody and Marc deLeeuwe and formed an Oompah Band. Jan was invited to join the Oak Harbor Community Band in 1974 and led that band for several years when it was without a director. She also was part of the offshoot trio Dutchaires and the High Tides Dance Band comprised of community band members. In addition, she was a member of the Young at Heart band which later became the SeaNotes. She was a member of First Reformed Church of Oak Harbor.
Jan began her income tax preparation practice in 1959 and closed her practice as an accredited tax preparer in 2017 at age 84. Jan worked at Island Savings and Loan from 1972 until she resigned in 1977 at which time she enrolled at Western Washington University. Following a divorce in 1974, she married Raymond “Doc” Ellis, DVM, on June 12, 1980 and graduated a day later as Jan Ellis with a bachelor’s degree in business.
She and “Doc” were diehard WSU Cougar fans and were football season ticket holders for many years, often driving on treacherous roads to attend Saturday games. The highlight was attending the 1998 Rose Bowl game. They also shared a love of music and dance and attended many Jazz Festivals throughout the West Coast.
She was a lifetime member of Navy League, Oak Harbor Senior Center, Island Historical Society, the Stanford Alumni Assn., the Western WA University Alumni Assn. and a member of the Washington Association of Accountants and the National Society of Accountants.
Jan realized two ‘bucket-list’ dreams after being diagnosed with cancer, by taking her three grandchildren on a 2016 Christmas-week cruise around the Hawaiian Islands and then this April visiting China with son Randy and his wife Yan. Highlights included climbing up and standing on a portion of the Great Wall, viewing the Terra Cotta Army and spending time with Yan’s family in Nanning.
Jan is survived by daughter Alana Koetje Morris (Peter), of Seattle, son Randy Koetje (Yan), of Woodinville; grandchildren Timothy Koetje, of Boise, Idaho, Antje and Isak Morris, of Seattle; sisters Suzie Ross (Bob, deceased), of Lacey, Wash., and Joan Werkhoven (brother in love, Don), of Carmichael, Calif.; stepchildren Marguerite (Peachie) Ellis Butler, of Everett, Wash., Raymond O. Ellis, Jr. (LeAnne), of Ellensburg, Wash.; step-grandchildren Gregory (Amanda), of Forks, Wash. and Kimberly (Tyler) Waite, of Boston; Daniel Kirk (Brittany), of West Seattle; Sean Hu, of Nanning, China and step-great grandchildren, Rhonin Ellis, of Forks, Isla and Arlo Kirk, of West Seattle.
A Celebration of Life service will be held 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1 at the First Reformed Church of Oak Harbor.
The family suggests honoring Jan’s memory by donating, in her name, to the Oak Harbor Education Foundation (P.O. Box 1801, Oak Harbor, WA 98277). Monies donated will provide student access to musical instruments or the purchase of new instruments.