SOMESVILLE – Jan Davis Marshall of Somesville died on Sept. 6, 2016, leaving her wide network of family, friends and the genetics research community at Jackson Laboratory stunned by her passing. Her dynamic life began in western New York on Feb. 17, 1948, and was packed full of extraordinary energy and accomplishments. She was the daughter of the late Thomas J. and Betty (Walker) Davis of Williamsville, N.Y., and Somesville.
She is survived by her husband and soul-mate Robert P. Marshall, beloved daughter Erin (Richard) Cyr, her grand-daughters Madison and Lily of Carver, Mass., and sister Susan (Paul) Belanger of Madison, Ohio. Many others, including a legion of Deck House Players, considered her to be friend, sister or mother. All will remember her passion for life, her love of great food and wine, and the joy she found in sailing the waters of Mount Desert Island with her precious grandchildren.
Jan graduated from Williamsville High School and from Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., before moving to Mt. Desert Island with Rob in 1970 to start her career as a research assistant at the Jackson Laboratory and was a senior professional assistant and genetics coordinator for Alstrom syndrome studies at the time of her death.
During her 46-year career at Jackson Laboratory, she contributed to many genetics research projects as a valued team member. It was her research on Alstrom syndrome, a rare and very serious inherited disease, that captured her passion and became her most important legacy, making a huge difference in the lives of Alstrom patients and families around the world.
Jan located and worked with families of children afflicted with Alstrom, leading to continued research, which allowed the discovery of the disease gene. She developed a deep and personal commitment to help Alstrom children and their families. In 1998, she and Rob founded Alstrom Syndrome International (ASI), a charitable foundation dedicated to treating and curing the disease. She authored numerous scientific articles and The Alstrom Syndrome Handbook, which have greatly increased the worldwide understanding of this disease. A colleague said it well: “Jan’s spirit is in her life’s work and will forever stay with us.” She was Chair of the ASI Scientific Advisory Board.
Her legacy survives in the hundreds of families in 58 countries that now have been helped by ASI and the continuing research on the disease. She has touched many lives and remains an inspiration to all who knew her. Her lifetime awards include the Galileo Galilei Surgical Theater Medal for Scientific Achievement by the University of Padua, Italy (2003) and the Williamsville Education Foundation Wall of Fame Award for Distinguished Service to Science (2008).
A tribute to her life will be held in the outdoor amphitheater at Camp Beech Cliff, Beech Hill Road, Mount Desert, on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, at 4 p.m. (moving indoors if weather demands). Casual and comfortable clothing is appropriate.
Tax-deductible memorial contributions in Jan’s honor may be sent to Alstrom Syndrome International, 14 Whitney Farm Road, Mount Desert, ME 04660 in support of this family-focused nonprofit organization. (www.alstrom.org)
Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com.