An indomitable spirit

Janet Laycox is honored by Passaic County

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  • Janet and Paul Laycox with Paul's children, from left, Beryl, Joe and Mary.

  • Janet Laycox was named a champion by the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders Council on Disability. She is a volunteer at the West Milford Animal Shelter, the P.R.I.D.E. Program and serves on several committees to help those with disabilities.

  • Sixteen awards were given at the ceremony. Janet Laycox is seated in front with Janice Sangle, also of West Milford, and a co-chair of the Passiac County Advisory Council on Disability.

  • This painting by Janet Laycox was on the cover of the program for the Champions of Disability program.

"You can do everything everybody else does, but at a slower pace. The end result is I get it done.”
Janet Laycox of West Milford, who was recently honored by Passaic County as a champion of disability

— Janet Laycox is a volunteer extraordinaire. She donates a tremendous amount of her time at West Milford’s all-volunteer animal shelter, doing administrative work, interacting with the public and teaching young volunteers how to care for the homeless animals at the shelter. Her smile and enthusiasm are contagious and just as valuable as her volunteering. She is a member of several committees, including the Americans with Disabilities Act Committee in West Milford and the Passaic County Council on Disability. She helps out with the township's P.R.I.D.E. program as well.

On May 20, at the Champions of Disability Awards ceremony, Laycox won one of 16 awards given to individuals and organizations for “providing encouragement and inspiration to individuals with disabilities and special needs” by the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders Advisory Council on Disability and the West Milford Disability Council.

Laycox herself has multiple sclerosis (MS), but that doesn't even come close to stopping her.

The diagnosis
When Laycox was first diagnosed in 1994, her former husband, Robert Meluzio, raced Ferraris. The diagnosis didn't stop her.

“We were always going to events and I served food to the whole team,” she said. “There were no symptoms when first diagnosed.”

In 2001, Meluzio died. Just a year later, the symptoms of her disease became worse. It was a slow progression, Laycox said.

“It has its challenges; I walk with a walker, but manage to do everything I need to do, by myself.” That includes driving, volunteering, running animals to the vet and all her social activities.

Yet, she has an indomitable spirit and uses her talents and time to help others.

Love for the shelter and more

Laycox has volunteered for 12 years now at the West Milford Animal shelter. As a senior volunteer, she interacts with the public and does administrative work, including animal intake and adoption and instructs young volunteers how to handle and clean animals at the shelter.

Bettina Bieri, mayor of West Milford and animal shelter volunteer and health officer, described Laycox as “a very dedicated, hard-working, enthusiastic and lively volunteer. She always comes in with a positive attitude. She’s a very friendly and outgoing individual who gets along with volunteers and the public alike.”

She also takes her work home with her, in a good way. She has a golden retriever named Sophie, plus six cats - all rescues from the shelter.

Laycox, who grew up in Pompton Plains, lived in Warwick, N.Y., for a while then settled in West Milford to be closer to her family, helps others as part of the squeaky wheel, a support group for people with disabilities which meets once a month. That's in addition to working with the ADA Committee in West Milford, the Passaic County Council on Disability, and volunteering with West Milford’s P.R.I.D.E. program.

Bringing honor to herself and community

Janice Sangle, who is the chairperson of the West Milford ADA Committee and also has MS, nominated Laycox for the county award. The Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey also recognized Laycox for bringing “Honor to herself, and pride to her family and community.”

Sangle also designed the brochure for the event. The painting on the front of the brochure is by Laycox.

“I’ve only painted twice in my life and it’s on the brochure!” Laycox said.

A loving surprise

Laycox has had many surprises in her life, but there was another surprise in store for her: she found love again. In 2012, she married Paul Laycox.

“I tend to ramble on, especially when it comes to the love of my life,” said Paul Laycox. “Janet is an amazing, adventurous, curious and loving spirit; she had brought so much joy and happiness to my life there are not enough words to describe the change.

“Janet never lets her disability stop her, never feels sorry for herself, and goes out of her way to help others,” Paul continued. “She is very adventurous; I tell my family and friends I would not be surprised if someday I come home and find her building model rockets in the yard — she is that curious and unpredictable.

“She has told me how lucky she is that I came into her life; the truth be told — I am the luckiest man on the face of this earth that incredibly amazing woman chose me to complete this awesome journey of life with.”

Pretty high praise for a true champion.

“I live a very full life,” Laycox said. “Never give up; there’s definitely a cure around the corner. There are excellent drugs to control the disease now. You can do everything everybody else does, but at a slower pace. The end result is I get it done.”

Editor’s note: For information on the squeaky wheel support group, call Janice Sangle, co-chair of the Passaic Council on Disability, at 973-728-1282.

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