Janet Lynn "Jan" Lilly-Stewart

Kanawha City, WV

Janet Lynn "Jan" Lilly-Stewart

Janet Lynn “Jan” Lilly – Stewart, age 67, of Kanawha City , passed away Thursday December 6, 2018 at CAMC Memorial Hospital after a short illness, surrounded by family and friends. She will be remembered by many for her fierce advocacy, steadfast friendship and unwavering love of life. Jan was born August 15, 1951 in Beckley, WV daughter of Genevieve “Jennie” Browning, of Canton, OH, and the late James Lilly.  When Jan was a child, doctors told her mother that Jan was not likely to live to adulthood due to her spina bifida. Her mother defied their predictions. She supported Jan in following her dreams, which led her to a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Marshall University, a career in the disability movement and marriage to the love of her life, David Stewart, who died in 2015. Jan was the first inductee in the West Virginia Independent Living Hall of Fame. She was one of the pioneers in the state’s independent living movement and has been recognized nationally for her contributions. She was among the original staff members at what is now known as Mountain State Centers for Independent Living. She left the center to lead the advocacy efforts of the Developmental Disabilities Council. She was one of the founders of the Fair Shake Network and served as its coordinator for several years. Jan was well-known at the State Legislature for her expertise and leadership on disability issues. She helped author legislation that closed the Colin Anderson Center, the state’s last institution for people with developmental disabilities. She was also instrumental in the passage the Ron Yost Personal Assistance Services Act, the Independent Living Act and other important bills.  She was the founder of Partners in Policymaking, which has helped prepare many new leaders in the disability movement. Jan worked hard, and she played hard. She and David hosted frequent gatherings in their home, where David loved to cook and friends often played music. Many a Friday night during the summer, Jan could be found listening to local musicians at Live on the Levy. She loved the Beatles and saw Bruce Springsteen in concert four times. She looked great in purple, her favorite color. Left to cherish her memory are her mother, Jennie Browning of Canton, OH; her sister, Renee Lilly and her husband James Athans, of Canton, OH; stepson Mark Stewart and family; her personal assistants, Kim Ramsey and Janie Barker; her roommate, Tara Roush; and countless friends. A celebration of Jan’s life will be held at 2:00 pm Saturday December 15, 2018 at Snodgrass Funeral Home by her family and friends.  The family will receive friends one hour prior to the celebration on Saturday. Private graveside services were held at Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens, Beckley, WV. Memories of Jan may be shared by visiting and selecting the obituary. Snodgrass Funeral Home is assisting the family with these arrangements. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to The Fair Shake Network, PO Box 354, Institute, WV 25112, or online at

15 replies
  1. Beverley Jones says:

    I am so sorry to hear about Jan passing. She was a very good friend of mine. She will be missed in the independent living community as well. I will miss her.

  2. Lucy Proctor Dohar says:

    A shining light has gone out. It’s been years since I’ve been with Jan in person, but I have carried her tenacious spirit with me always. Every moment I spent with her was a joy and a blessing to me.

  3. Judy Athans says:

    Our hearts go out to you in your time of sorrow. A thought of comfort and condolences to the grieving family.

  4. Janie l barker says:

    Renne and family, my prayers are with you at this time of sadness, As my Rachel once told me Jan will walk again now she is…love and hugs..Janie

  5. Suzanne Wiles says:

    Jan lived an amazing life. On behalf of both Ben and Tom,please accept our heartfelt sympathy in your time of sorrow in the passing of your sister and daughter..

  6. Jeri Rae says:

    My dear cousin continually beat all the odds against her. I have not seen her since her marriage to the love of her life, wedding colors were shades of purple, but the memories are as clear today as they were yesterday. I remember watching her dance the “boogaloo” spinning that chair around the dancefloor as if she owned it. She did! My love goes out to Aunt Jennie and Renee and her family. Hugs, sorry for your loss

  7. Kelly Simpson says:

    Jan was a wonderful woman. She was always so gracious and kind to me and to my son Erick. She was my mentor as well as my son’s. She helped me over the years so much. I learned a lot from her. She will be deeply missed. I’m so sorry for your loss. Sending love and prayers.

  8. Sandra J Brue says:

    Dear Renee, I am so sorry for the loss of your wonderful sister. May God bless you and your family as you grieve Jan’s passing and celebrate her life. Sincerely, Sandy Brue

  9. Barb Royer says:

    Renee, Your sister, Jan, was indeed an amazing woman!! What a list of outstanding accomplishments that she made during her life for the improvement of the lives of others. Please know that you & your mother are in my thoughts & prayers now & in the days ahead. God be with you!!
    Sincerely, Barb Royer

  10. John Mitchell Collins says:

    I am so sorry for the families loss. Jan was a strong advocate for those with disabilities but she was much more. She was always nice to me especially when I first became involved in the DD Panning council and I had so much to learn. I was blessed by knowing her. My prayers for the family.

  11. Janie Rodgers says:

    Janet Lynn Lilly was my cousin, and a very special one. I grew up spending summers in West Virginia and most of the time it was with Janet and her family. I loved being there with them and it was during those times that a strong bond was formed between Jan and me.
    My first memories of Jan are not of her in a wheel chair, but of a tiny little girl with blonde curls, pulling herself around on crutches, gingerly at that, with heavy braces on both legs. The wheel chair came later. Janet could not walk like other kids, but that was the only thing different about her to me. We shared so many wonderful, fun, times just being kids. Mostly we played “sit down things”, like school, or office, but sometimes we played hide and seek outdoors, when I would help her hide, or wheel her around finding the others. The most fun we had was making mud pies in her back yard, pretending we were working in a bakery. I would scavenge for berries, flowers, and pretty rocks to decorate our confections. We got dirty and we loved it. Another vivid memory was of me pushing her down that dirt road to the Dairy Queen for an ice cream. Going down wasn’t so bad It was that trip back up the hill that was difficult. I probably weighed all of 65 lbs. so I’m sure we were quite a sight trudging our way back home!
    As we got older, we saw less and less of each other, but kept in touch by writing letters through her high school and college years. We did have the opportunity to visit each other several times throughout our adult lives, and those times were always special.
    Lately phone calls and Facebook are how we have kept up, and of course her sister Renee’ and my Aunt Jennie kept me up to date on Jan.
    I was devastated to hear of her death. It is so hard for me to think that she is no longer on this earth. I know all her family and friends are suffering her loss and will miss her dearly, as will I. But I will choose to try focusing on her life, rather than her death, because Janet Lynn Lilly lived. She lived a life of joy and laughter, of making friends wherever she went, of music and dancing (yes she danced), of love and passion, of learning and teaching, of leading and helping, of encouragement and adventure, and of accomplishing more from a wheelchair than most of us with able bodies will ever do. Jan is my hero and my inspiration. I will always love her. And love never dies.

  12. Fred Ewing says:

    Jan was a warrior. Her legacy will continue to inspire change and empowerment for years to come. The disability rights movement cannot be the same without her. She was my friend and will live on in my memory.

  13. Kay Athans says:

    Our thoughts, hearts and prayers go out to the family of Jan. She was quite a woman and certainly left a lasting impression on family, friends and the world.


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  • Saturday, December 15
  • 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm

Memorial Service

  • Saturday, December 15
  • 2:00 PM