Janesville health care and school leader dies

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Wednesday, September 5, 2012

— Virginia Wyss spent her life caring for others.

That might sound like a clichéd compliment, but Wyss embodied "caring" beyond the ordinary.

She led organizations, helped establish hospice care service and engaged in time-consuming committee work.

In other words, hers was a caring spirit that got things done.

Wyss, 71, died Monday of pancreatic cancer at the Milwaukee home of her daughter, Carolyn. She was surrounded by family.

Wyss was born in Janesville in 1940. She was a fixture in the community all her life.

She graduated from Janesville High School in 1959 and attended nursing school in Chicago. She married Robert Wyss in 1962 at St. Mary's Church in Janesville.

Wyss began her nursing career with Sister Michael Barry, one of Mercy Hospital's early leaders.

"She had tremendous respect for Sister Michael Barry," said Nancy Sonntag, who served on the Janesville School Board with Wyss.

Wyss later moved to Dean Riverview to manage healthcare quality control and physician recruitment.

Wyss, her husband and two children, Ron and Carolyn, were involved with the Rock Aqua Jays.

In the late 1980s, Wyss was instrumental in establishing hospice care in Rock County. That was long before hospice was as commonly accepted as it is now.

She also served as the co-chairwoman of the Community Information Council, a group that solicited voter support for the Marshall Middle School referendum.

The YWCA named her one of its "Women of Distinction" for her efforts on the referendum and her work as a supporter of hospice.

Wyss served for ten years on the Janesville School Board and spent three years as its president.

Sonntag remembers her as someone who got things done.

"She wasn't one of those people who gave just verbal support to something," Sonntag said. "She really put her heart and soul into something if she believed in it."

The two women remained friends after their time together on the school board.

Marcia Whittington, vice president of the Agrace HospiceCare Foundation, worked with Wyss on the foundation's board.

"I guess the first thing that comes to mind is that she was a true professional," Whittington said. "She kept the focus on what was best for the organization—and she wanted to help people at the end of their lives. She was really a gift to the whole hospice community."

Services for Wyss will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Mary's Catholic Church. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Schneider Apfel Schneider & Schneider Funeral Home and Crematory.

Last updated: 4:42 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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