Archive for Thursday, September 8, 2005

Not a New Englander

September 8, 2005

For all the surprises Janette Labbee-Holdeman's life may hold for those who first meet the Lansing Planning Commission member, her English origin, surprisingly, is sometimes one.

She speaks with an accent that is hard for some people to place, because with a father from London and a mother from the north of the city, Labbee-Holdeman says her speech is not as distinctive as the drawls of her countrymen from Yorkshire or Lancashire, for example.

"They always think I come from Boston. I tell them, 'I come from old England, not New England,'" she says.

Labbee-Holdeman was raised in Winchester, about 60 miles southwest of London, where she lived until she was 17. At the encouragement of her mother, she took a job in Germany with an experimental arm of IBM, programming "computers to build computers," she said.

She learned German there and began teaching it to American troops as a side job.

There she met her first husband, an American soldier, who was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, and they moved to Lansing in 1973.

At first, Labbee-Holdeman says, she lived here as a housewife because she had to get acclimated.

"I was used to living in small towns that were six or eight hundred years old," she says.

She says she is excited about plans for an amphitheater in the city's future 128-acre park and the possibilities it will bring for local theater.

"We have some very talented people in Lansing," she says.

Name: Janette Labbee-Holdeman

Address: 820 4-H Road

Occupation: Director, Bank Card Services, Department of Commerce

Graduate of: University of Missouri, Kansas City, mini-MBA; California Coast University, Bachelor's in business administration

Family: Husband, Forrest Holdeman; daughters, Karen Mance, Marla Soltow, Martina Alm, Marcie Flynn, Suzanne Labbee

How long have you lived in Lansing and what brought you here? Since 1973. My first husband was stationed in Fort Leavenworth.

What do you like most about Lansing? It's what I call the "moderate West." On the East Coast, you're influenced by the crazy speed of life; on the West Coast, everyone is a little crazy. Here, there's time to enjoy life.

What do you do for fun? Go to the theater, garden, read, yoga.

What would surprise people about you? People always expect me to say something. They're surprised when I don't have an opinion.

What's the best advice you ever received? From my mother, who was a great reader of Shakespeare: "To thine own self be true."

To what organizations or clubs do you belong? Lansing Lions Club, Lansing Planning Commission, Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau, and I was a founding member of the Lansing Historic Society.

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