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Obituary of Janet Passonneau, 94


Janet Passonneau, née Janet Vivian, died Tuesday December 18, 2018 at 9:40 pm, at Foxdale Village in State College, PA. She was 94. Born June 22, 1924, in Marble, MN, she was the youngest and last surviving sibling of the three children of Stansmore Neal Vivian and Lillian Ingaborg Tingstad Vivian.

Janet married Joseph Russell Passonneau on April 21, 1948, who predeceased her in August of 2011. Her three surviving children are Rebecca Jane Passonneau, Polly Nicole Passonneau, and Sarah Michelle Passonneau Harpole. Her son, Christopher Neal Passonneau, preceded her in death on April 1, 2016. She has two grandchildren, Ada Tea Lillian Passonneau Harpole (mother Sarah), and Vivian Laurel Passonneau (mother Rebecca).

Janet graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Arts in 1945, earned an M.A. from Radcliffe College, followed in 1949 by a Doctor of Philosophy in Biology from Harvard University. Her last professional position prior to her retirement was at the National Institutes of Health, where she was a section chief at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Washington, D. C. She held many prior positions in a career that began in the late 40s at Argonne and Oak Ridge laboratories.

She enjoyed a long tenure in the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, where she worked closely with Oliver H. Lowry. Together, she and Dr. Lowry received the Borden Award in 1966. Among her many publications is a book entitled Enzymatic Analysis: A Practical Guide (1993), that summarized the methods she and Lowry developed to study cell metabolism. In the early seventies she was one of the top 100 cited scientists in the USA.

Janet led a full life that included a deep appreciation of poetry, culinary arts, gardening, travel, and enduring professional and personal friendships. She was proud of founding a book club that is still meeting to this day, thirty-five years later. She had a strong sense of her beginnings, which she described in a book well-loved by her family and friends, a self-published memoir of her youth in Crosby, MN, entitled This is a Love Story: Growing Up on the Cuyuna Range (2006).

In her memoir she describes that after seeing a giant bull-frog dissected by a high school teacher, she was awestruck by the symmetry and order of life, and knew what she want to be - a biologist. At a very young age, her brother told Butch, which was her nickname at the time: You can't. You can't be a sailor, because girls can't be sailors. Her response: So, I'll be the first girl sailor. This stand-up attitude stood her well during a trailblazing career that she enjoyed for decades, along with her love of her family, friends and a good joke, especially an off-color one.

Her family plans a memorial service for friends in Washington, DC where she resided for forty years, and later in the year a personal family memorial to be held in Crosby, MN.

Name of Deceased

Janet Passonneau



Date of Death


Date of Birth


Funeral Home

Koch Funeral Home

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