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Official Obituary of

Janet Gross Nicholas

January 1, 1946 ~ February 23, 2024 (age 78) 78 Years Old

Janet Nicholas Obituary

Janet Nicholas, former Sonoma County Supervisor and advocate for math education and California public policy, passed away February 23, 2024. She was 78.

Born in Denver, raised in Los Angeles, Janet graduated UCLA with a self-designed triple major in economics, urban design, and political science. 

A Sonoman since 1969, Janet brought to local and California government her laser focus, unique way of seeing possibilities, and getting people to do the right thing.

She served as Sonoma County supervisor from 1984 to 1989, fighting for intelligent prioritizing and infrastructure improvements. At a Chinese luncheon for the California Transportation Commission she served fortune cookies she and husband Bob re-stuffed themselves: "Happiness comes to those who fund First District roads." (She got the funding.)

Janet then moved to statewide positions: first as a leading force for crime victims’ rights on the State Board of Prison Terms; then on the State Board of Education, championing school choice, charter schools, and phonics and math skills mastery.

Janet carried her family's love of learning. When her own mother, Lillian Saks Gross (University of Denver's first female Law School graduate), was asked if she taught her daughters to cook, Lillian replied, “No. I taught them to read. If you can read, you can teach yourself anything.”

Janet herself read voraciously, broadly, and deeply. She listened to an audiobook every few days while working in her extraordinary garden.

“One of my favorite memories with my mom is taking a flower arranging class together. She loved creating beauty,” said daughter Kim Nicholas.

After retiring from public life, Janet embraced painting. Some of her paintings will be exhibited at her Celebration of Life.

“Mom was a force– and fearless. She was always ready with a deeply-thought-out brilliant ‘take’, appreciative and curious about everyone and everything: local hummingbirds, planting bulbs, Mary Cassat, the optics of prisms, the role of agricultural grazing rights on public lands in fire prevention, the long-term implications of short-term fiscal policies, the modernization of China, and how to move California to be better. And, dearest of all, her fun and mischief and total joy with grandsons Cole and Connor and all her family and friends,” said daughter Laura.

“She was my best friend. I loved her for 54 years. I keep expecting her to walk around the corner in the garden,” said husband Bob.

A celebration of Janet's life will be held at 11:00am on Thursday, March 28 at the Sonoma Veterans' Memorial Building, 126 1st St West Sonoma, CA

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Janet's name honoring her passion for education to the American Federation for Children:

Janet is survived by her husband, Bob, daughters Kimberly Nicholas (Simon Rose) and Laura (Stephen) Havlek, grandsons Richard "Cole" (Anna) and Connor Havlek, her sister Judy Gross Glock of Fountain Hills, AZ, and brother Clark (Wendy) Gross of Israel, and so many extraordinary nieces and nephews and multigenerational friends.











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Celebration of Life
March 28, 2024

11:00 AM
Sonoma Veterans Memorial Building
126 First St. West
Sonoma, CA 95476


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