Our beloved mother, daughter, sister, educator, and friend, Janna Brittain Mahaffey (née Jolly), passed away at her home in Charlottesville, VA, on December 10th, 2023. Her absence leaves a void in the lives of the many individuals she touched during her all-too-brief seventy-seven years. Janna's legacy is one of unwavering care and support for others, especially children. Despite life's challenges, she always persisted through her personal struggles, generously giving of herself with a kind and compassionate heart.
Janna entered this world on October 31st, 1946, in Jackson, Mississippi, to the late Pauline ("Polly") and Richard ("Dick") Jolly. After the war, Polly brought Janna back to Tulsa, where she spent her childhood and adolescence, graduating from Tulsa Memorial High School in 1964. Janna was a good student interested in boys, music, and fun. She also demonstrated her compassionate nature early on by volunteering with special needs children in high school, igniting her passion for teaching.
During high school, Janna also met the love of her life Pat Mahaffey and they began a long relationship that would last until Pat’s tragic, untimely death in 1998. They both started college in 1964—Janna at Oklahoma State and Pat at Stanford. As their connection deepened, they married on August 26th, 1967, with Janna relocating to California, transferring to San Jose State. After completing their degrees in 1968, they moved to Austin, Texas, to be closer to their families in Houston.
In Austin, Janna taught second grade in a predominantly Latino, lower-income area in south Austin. Her compassionate nature extended to her students, and she even taught herself Spanish to better communicate with them. Janna gave to her students with a humble heart and accomplished a lot of the simple kind of good that often goes unnoticed in the world. During this time, the family had a lake house outside of Austin on Lake Travis, where she and Pat, and their dogs –Pooh and Hanni– lived and enjoyed the beautiful Texas Hill Country.
In 1974, the couple moved to Houston, renovating a house on Gray Moss Lane. Janna joined the Spring Branch Independent School District (SBISD), where she served as a teacher, coordinator, and elementary school principal until her retirement in 2003. Among her achievements as an educator, she took particular pride in opening Buffalo Creek Elementary as its first principal. In 1984, the couple also welcomed their daughter Brittain. Janna always said that having Brittain was one of the best things she ever did and they had an especially close mother-daughter bond.
After retiring, Janna sought refuge from the Houston heat, moving to Earlysville, VA, just outside Charlottesville in 2003. Despite her love for Virginia and preference for its climate, Janna could never get enough snow. In 2004, her father, Dick, joined her in Charlottesville, and they enjoyed many years together there until his passing in 2013.
Earlier in her life Janna enjoyed water skiing, snow skiing, running with Pat, sailing, traveling, cherishing time with friends and family. She was an animal lover and always had a dog or two in her life, most recently her beloved pup Murphy. As her mobility declined in recent years, she enjoyed driving around Charlottesville, taking in the fall leaves and spring flowers. Staying active and continuing her service to children, she volunteered for Piedmont CASA for many years, advocating for children in the foster system. She also helped to coordinate children’s programming for the local opera guild. Grateful for her many friends, especially the “deep-enders” in her water class and her book club, Janna lived a life enriched by meaningful connections.
Janna leaves behind to cherish her memory: her daughter, Brittain Mahaffey and her partner, John Beeler; her brother David Jolly; sister-in-law Sandra McLeod; brother-in-law Steve Mahaffey; sister-in-law Marie Mahaffey; and nieces and nephews: Kathleen Megehee, Brian McLeod, Andrew Mahaffey, and Michael Mahaffey.
Friends are invited to pay respects from 2:00pm – 4:00pm on Friday, December 15, 2023 at Teague Funeral Service, 2260 Ivy Road Charlottesville, VA 22903.
A reception celebrating Janna’s life will also be held from 4:30pm – 7:00pm on Friday December 22, 2023 at Nos Caves Vin, 835 Frostwood Drive, Houston TX 77024. Please join us for a glass of wine in remembrance of Janna.
In accordance with Janna’s wishes, there will be no formal service.