Janet Russo

Janet Russo

July 07, 1922 - May 16, 2017


Janet Russo was born Juana Casal Torres on July 7th, 1922 in Vigo, Spain. A year later she crossed the Atlantic by boat with her mother arriving in Ellis Island in June of 1923. Because of this, her name is on the American Immigrant Wall of Honor, currently on display in Ellis Island.

She was raised in Brooklyn, New York with her two younger sisters. She attended the advanced high school for girls and always prided herself in her successes at school.

On December 20, 1941 She married Joseph Russo at the South Congregational Church in Brooklyn. They had three children who they raised in New York. On March 29th, 1960, she became an American Citizen, receiving her Certificate of Naturalization. In 1963, she, along with her family moved permanently to Southern California.

She was a true home maker. Not only did she cook traditional Spanish empanadas, she was also an incredible seamstress. She made her and her children’s clothes from studying designer fashions in magazines and replicating them. She had impeccable taste, with her attire and the way she held herself always embodying glamor.

She lived to nearly 95 years old, having never driven a car a day in her life. She loved animals, especially her Siamese cat Sheba.

She is survived by her three children: John Russo, Denise (Sieg) Heep, and Nadyne (Nigel) McClurg; and her grandchild Taylore (Malia) McClurg.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the ASPCA in her name: www.aspca.org.

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9 responses to Janet Russo

  1. nadyne says:

    8 files added to the tribute wall

  2. Eddie & Lisa says:

    Aunt Janet will be forever missed and remembered with love! Eddie and I (Lisa) have always admired her ability to speak her mind…truly a one of a kind woman. As a child I remember one Christmas we spent together at the Woodland Hills home. Aunt Janet had a beautiful Siamese cat named Rini, (even her cat was unique) and the dog Ringo looked like a rock star with all that fur in his eyes. Of course most of the visit took place at the dining room table. Included in the menu was a mandatory pot of sauce and “Aunt Janet’s Empanada”. Uncle Joe was famous for “Oops I dropped my bread in the sauce”. Our sister Maria just got a Bell & Howell cassette player for Christmas. The first thing she taped was all of us at the table. All you could hear in the playback was the sound of Silverware Clanking, Umm-Umm, and “Oops I Dropped My Bread In The Sauce”. Anyone out there (including me) who has ever had the pleasure of tasting Aunt Janet’s world famous Empanada has probably asked her for the recipe at one time or another. Just recently while going through Mom’s (Aunt Helen’s) recipe box, I found a letter dated 1972 from Aunt Janet to our sister Carol. Included in the letter was the Empanada recipe Carol had requested. Discovering this made me chuckle…did I mention that I found it in MOM’S recipe box. Anyway, Carol has the letter now, but not without making copies first (smile). It was always so enjoyable to see Dad (Uncle Sam) & Aunt Janet visit. As one of her younger brother-in-laws, Dad fondly remembered her taking him to the movies. Aunt Janet, we celebrate your life and we are so thankful to have been a part of it! May you rest in peace :heart:

  3. Helen Zajac says:

    I am honored to have known and to have loved Juana “Janet” Torres Russo. I look forward to tomorrow, July 7th, her 95th birthday, to celebrate the life of one wonderful lady!

    I met Janet in the soup aisle at Ralphs in the Spring of 2010. I was 46, she was 88. She had walked from her apartment near the corner of Oso and Marguerite in Mission Viejo to the Ralphs at La Paz and Marguerite. She thought I was a Ralphs employee and in her Brooklyn accent said, “Pardon me. Do you happen to know where the knee highs are??” That’s not the kind of statement one hears every day. I was intrigued. I looked over and saw a petite woman, with perfectly styled hair, wearing big Jackie O style sunglasses with purple lenses, She wore impeccably pressed beige slacks and a blouse that matched perfectly. She had big gold earrings, a stylish broach, a gold necklace and a beautiful smile. I couldn’t help but want to help her on her quest. I told her I wasn’t a Ralphs employee, but I would be happy to assist her because I too had gotten lost in the store on many occasions. Ralphs had been going through a major remodel and it seemed that aisles and displays changed on a daily basis. Between the two of us, we surely could find that panty hose aisle. We both laughed at how Ralphs was putting us through some sort of brain teaser game with the constant moving of merchandise and displays. She told me that normally she went Pavilions or CVS, but they didn’t carry Hanes nude colored knee highs and those were the ones she wanted because they matched her skin color perfectly. She then lifted up her pant legs to show me. That was it! I loved her vibe, I just had to get to know her. We became fast friends.

    She first introduced me to Nadyne. Then she invited me over to her apartment for lunch and most times she would invite two of her friends. Every lunch was a history lesson. I loved it. As everyone knows, Janet was an amazing cook. She made sure I knew how to properly sauté mushrooms. She taught me how to make Chicken Marsala (now one of my family’s favorite meals). She told me the process for making empanadas. It sounded like a lot of work. One Christmas she called me and told me to come pick up an empanada she made for our family. We felt honored!

    She told me about her parents and growing up with her two sisters. She shared with me the stories of her husband, Joe. She told me how they decided to pack up and move to California in 1963. I eventually got to meet Denise and John. Janet told me about their home in Corbin Palms home. She spoke about their move to Mission Viejo. She told me about Taylor and Malia. Janet was sharp and quite the storyteller. Janet had lived such a long life and had so many stories that I enjoyed hearing. On the phone or in person, we would chat endlessly.

    Janet and I ultimately did find those Hanes knee highs and in the process started a wonderful friendship. How many times does one have fun conversations with a strange never to encounter that person again? I look back on the day Janet and I met. I am grateful that on that particular day I needed a can of soup and she wanted her knee highs. That chance meeting was the beginning a wonderful friendship that I will cherish for the rest of my life. That great smile and infectious laugh and those purple colored sunglasses reeled me in. Sometime later, I told Janet how much I liked those purple lenses. I told her any woman her age that went out and bought a pair of purple sunglasses was someone I knew I had to get to know. She laughed put her hand on my forearm and admitted that when she bought those glasses several decades before, they were just normal dark lensed glasses. She had just kept them so long, they faded to purple. I’m so glad she never stopped wearing them.

    Janet, I love you and want to thank you for everything!

    your friend, – Helen Zajac

  4. Janet was a very warm and classy lady. We will miss her.

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