Haney, unofficial Milton ‘street sweeper,’ dies at 75

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Saturday, January 15, 2011
— A broom, a long-handled dustpan and a two-wheeled trash cart.

They’re simple tools, but Milton resident Janette “Jan” Haney used them to preserve a tapestry of cleanliness in the city she loved.

For more than a decade, Haney swept and cleaned the sidewalks, streets and parking lots along businesses on Milton’s east side, near the apartment where she lived for years.

Three days a week, Haney cleared dropped gum wrappers, cigarette butts and papers. She was paid little and by only a few of the businesses that benefited from her efforts.

Haney’s motivation was simple: She wanted things to be tidy, and cleaning gave her a reason to get up each morning.

“The more I clean up around Milton, the more I see to do,” Haney told the Gazette in 2009.

Family and friends knew Haney as “Jan,” a retired employee of Parker Pen and Monterey Mills in Janesville, but locals knew her as Milton’s self-appointed “street sweeper.” They knew Haney by her smile, her cheer and the pride she showed in her work.

Now, debris will come to sidewalks and parking lots in Milton, but Haney’s smile and her broom will no longer follow.

Haney died Sunday at home in peace, her family said. She was 75.

Members of Milton’s east-side business community remember Haney as part of the fabric of downtown, her working body woven in symmetry with the rising lines of buildings along Parkview Drive, her hustle and her cheer at home amid the bustle of daily commerce.

Bank of Milton employee Nancy Paske said you could set your watch by Haney’s sweep work.

“She’d come by with her little basket and her little broom. She’d whisk up litter, and away she’d go,” Paske said.

Milton Piggly Wiggly owner Jason Cowley said Haney swept and cleaned the parking area at his store for the last 10 years. The store put Haney on payroll to compensate her for her hard work. He said everyone knew Haney.

“She did a thankless job, not looking for any thank yous. I know that she would have done it for free, out of the kindness of her heart,” Cowley said.

Friends say Haney, a widow for the last several years of her life, didn’t have a lot, but she gave freely.

Milton resident Robin Thayer, Haney’s neighbor, recalled a time she had tried to sell plants at a stand in downtown Milton. Nobody was buying, but Haney kept passing by.

“She bought up the plants one by one by one,” Thayer said.

Later, Thayer said, Haney delivered the plants to friends in Milton.

Milton resident and longtime friend Donna Hillmann said Haney was a tireless volunteer who loved seeing local history preserved. She said Haney recently had donated her collection of Parker pens to the Rock County Historical Society. She’d amassed the pens during the years she worked at Parker Pen.

Hillmann said she saw Haney’s sense of duty grow and grow.

“She started with a bag, then she added a broom. Then it became her mission,” Hillmann said.

Hillmann said her friend did more than sweep the dust from downtown. She said Haney brightened people’s days with her friendliness and inspired others to give of themselves in small, humble ways.

“You can’t replace what she did,” Hillmann said. “I don’t think anyone will.”

Last updated: 4:04 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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