Janelle Nevins, 62: She is 'the gift that keeps on giving'

Sally Freedman, of Sandy Springs, remembers meeting her freshman roommate at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, in the late '60s. Being from Miami, Ms. Freedman was sure she was going to have a lot to teach her new roomie, who was from Sevierville, Tenn.

"But the tables quickly turned," she said. "She taught me so much."

Carrie Martz, of Scottsdale, Ariz., was a new promotional products sales woman and didn't know anybody when she went on one of her first business trips, but that didn't last long.

"Up walks this beautiful woman, and in her perfect Southern accent, she says, 'Hi, I'm Janelle! You must be new.'" she said. "And from that point, which was 34 years ago, we made it a point to get together."

Even as Mrs. Nevins' heath began to decline, she was still working in the lives of her friends and associates.

"Janelle is like the gift that keeps on giving," said Donna Mastrangelo-Ryan, of Smyrna. "I've met so many wonderful women during her illness, and I just know I'm going to stay in touch with many of these women."

Janelle Cutshaw Nevins, of Atlanta, died on Aug. 9 at Hospice Atlanta, from complications of digestive system failure and liver failure. She was 62. A memorial service was held Friday. Arrangements were handled by H.M. Patterson & Son, Arlington Chapel.

Mrs. Nevins' dream was to be a elementary school teacher, which she did for a time. But when she and her husband, Art, became parents, things changed.

"She wanted to be home with our son," Mr. Nevins said. "And while she was there, she started asking about what we did."

Mr. Nevins and his father had a promotional products distributorship, which they ran out of the basement of the Nevins' home. The more questions Mrs. Nevins asked, the more she got the hang of the business. In the late-'70s she started doing clerical work for her husband and father-in-law, but soon the businesswoman in her emerged. In a matter of months she was bringing in large orders, from not-so-small businesses.

"She cold-called Coca-Cola and got an appointment with somebody there," Mr. Nevins said. "We asked how she did that, and she said, 'Well, you said I should call them.'"

Mrs. Nevis, who worked in the family business until the time of her death — and kept Coca-Cola as a client for more than 30 years — seemed a natural at her new career. She would approach anybody, anywhere and strike up a conversation. And by the end of the chat, she knew far more about the other person that they did about her.

"I don't think she thought about it as selling, I think she thought about it as making friends," said Ms. Freedman. "She could network better than anybody I've ever seen. There was a period where we were neighbors, but I lived there for a year or so before Art and Janelle. Well, after she got there, it seemed like it was a matter of days and she knew everybody's name, even the dogs."

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Nevins is survived by her children, Whitney Nevins and Preston Nevins both of Atlanta; brother Kenneth Cutshaw of Durham, N.C.; and two grandchildren.

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