Janet Elizabeth Partlow

March 8, 1953 - December 11, 2023


Janet Elizabeth Partlow, healer, naturalist, family historian and musician, went home to a beautiful welcome from the ancestors she knew so well after dying peacefully December 11, 2023, in Tumwater, Wash.

Janet was born March 8, 1953, in old St. Peter Hospital overlooking the Deschutes Estuary in Olympia, Wash. She was the fifth of seven children born to Shirley Patterson Partlow and Verne Austin “Bud” Partlow, whose families were deeply rooted in the community.

She attended Lincoln Elementary School, Jefferson Middle School and Olympia High School, where she graduated in 1971. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in 1976 from The Evergreen State College, then began training as a physician assistant and working for the Thurston County Health Department’s Family Planning Clinic.

In the 1980s, Janet completed the University of Washington’s Medex Northwest Physician Assistant Program, which trains healthcare providers for medically underserved areas. Janet moved to the Yakima Valley where she worked in a community migrant health organization for six years. There, she began to learn Spanish, an interest that spurred extended visits to Mexico and Central America. Her time there included several months in Nicaragua, where she studied the language and worked with the human rights organization, Witness For Peace.

In 1987, she accepted a job with the University of Puget Sound Health Center, and in 1990, returned to Olympia to join the staff of The Evergreen State College’s Health Center. Janet earned her master’s degree in physician assistant science a short time later from the University of Nebraska. She retired from working as a physician’s assistant in 2001 to establish Yerba Buena, her herbal consulting practice.

In 1998, she studied botanical medicine with several respected North American herbalists prior to becoming a registered member of the American Herbalist Guild, a quest requiring hundreds of hours of clinical experience and botanical medical knowledge. She was an excellent practitioner. Those she cared for valued Janet’s knowledge, as well as her keen perception, calmness and commitment to their well-being. She served the area as a certified herbal consultant until her retirement in 2019.

A lifelong scholar, Janet filled her 70 years on earth pursuing countless interests and inspiring others by sharing what she’d learned through classes, nature walks, books and groups.

She loved and cared for life in all its forms, and she understood the spiritual connections among them. Through frequent family trips to Cannon Beach, Ore., and Mounts St. Helen’s and Rainier, she became fascinated by the wonders of the natural world

Janet’s attraction to sea mammals drew her to join an Earthwatch Institute expedition Mexico’s Sea of Cortez in 1986. She also was active with the Puget Sound Estuarium for some time. She also researched shorebirds, bats, owls and area birds and butterflies, then shared what she learned with others through tours and books..

An avid gardener in earlier years, Janet enjoyed nurturing her medicinal and pollinator gardens.

Music accompanied it all, for Janet also found great joy in music from an early age. She sang with the St. John’s Episcopal Church youth choir and played flute in high school band. She also took up guitar, often composing her own music, playing some of them at a solo concert in Yakima. She went on to master several instruments, including folk instruments like the concertina and Irish pennywhistle.

It was through her participation in the Olympia Song Circle and Olympia Contra Dance groups that she met her husband Glen Buschmann, whose own interests dovetailed with her own. They were married Nov. 21, 1994, at the Quaker Meeting House in Tumwater. Until Glen’s illness and death in 2019, their lives were full of shared adventures, activities and music. Two curious people, they found joy in shared trips, camping excursions, studies of area flora and fauna and exploring their genealogies. Together, they often led study tours and walks, helping others learn and enjoy the area’s rich ecological wonders. The couple shared a great sense of fun, enjoying nothing more than a night of cut-throat board games or conversations with friends or family. And they loved simple pleasures – canning peaches, stirring up a pot of jam or joining friends for a night of singing folk songs.

About 1996, Helen Ramsey Patterson, her elderly grandmother, asked Janet to take over her genealogical studies. Janet had faint interest, but agreed. Soon, she became captivated by her family’s history and some of the predecessors she discovered on her family tree. Her research consumed hours in courthouses, libraries and on the internet, and continued until she could no longer research, filling every nook and cranny of her office. She chronicled her family’s roots in two books, leaving relatives a wonderful legacy.

Her Irish ancestral roots struch a chord; she came to love all things Irish. In typical fashion, she soon was studying Irish language and culture, a process that resulted in three trips to Ireland to take part in an Irish language program. During one trip, she found the farm of one of her ancestors and walked on their land, one of her happiest memories. In Olympia, she facilitated an Irish language study group and enjoyed Irish song nights. Further trips to Ireland were thwarted only by the COVID epidemic.

Through her many interests, her vibrant spirituality and her quest to help and heal others, Janet touched so many. Her family and friends are grateful for the many ways she enriched our lives. She is survived by her sisters Sherry Partlow and her husband Barry Mullen of Bellingham, Wash., and Nancy Partlow of Tumwater; her brothers Sammy Partlow and Verne R. “Bob” Partlow and his wife Deanna, all of Olympia, and David Partlow and his wife Angelle of Issaquah; and several nieces and nephews. Besides her husband Glen, she was preceded in death by her parents and by her sister Barbara Partlow, who died in 1993.

At her request, no services took place.