In mid August 2004, Hurricane Charley was biting into the homes of Charlotte County like a giant can opener, ripping open everything it touched with winds of 150 mph.
Janet Weed was a 78-year-old widow living in Port Charlotte. During the last phone call to get through, she calmly told a family member, "I'm stepping into the hall closet because the roof's coming off the house."
Not much could shake Mrs. Weed, her family said, if only because she had already endured so much.
"Nothing rattled her," said Barbara Klingensmith, 65, her daughter.
The home was rebuilt, and Mrs. Weed lived in Port Charlotte another few years. Then, eyesight failing, she moved in with Klingensmith in San Antonio. She impressed others as withdrawn at first but feisty as you got to know her.
"She was an 88-year-old spitfire," said Jean Durney, 71, a family friend.
Mrs. Weed, who responded to challenges by getting even more out of the life that had dealt them to her, died Monday after an illness. She was 88.
She was born Janet Lynch in Baltimore in 1925.
Her parents divorced when she was 2. Mrs. Weed was raised by her father, who worked in a brewery, along with two aunts and their daughters under one roof. She called the other children "sister-cousins," and credited their mothers with teaching her how to survive and thrive.
"She knew she was loved and cared for by those women," Klingensmith said. "Family did not necessarily mean direct blood."
Two years out of high school she married Dave Weed, a construction man. Mrs. Weed would go on to work two stints as an analyst for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services), interrupted by years as a stay-at-home mom.
She and her husband both enjoyed "duckpin" bowling, a kind of miniaturized and difficult form of bowling popular in the Baltimore area. Both bowled in leagues, Mrs. Weed once racking up a series of games over 260.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer at 34, Mrs. Weed underwent a double mastectomy. Doctors cut muscle tissue during the surgery that made bowling impossible, her daughter said.
Dave Weed was "her rock" during the long recovery, Klingensmith said. He was the more social of the two, belonging to civic organizations. Though she would have preferred to stay home and read a book, Mrs. Weed went along.
"My mom's whole life revolved around my father," Klingensmith said.
She also took in as much as she could of the world. She read the newspaper from the front page through the classified ads.
In a game of Trivial Pursuit, if you were not on her team you were going to lose.
She also could not get enough of mysteries.
The couple moved from Catonsville, Md., to Port Charlotte in 1997 to be closer to family. Dave, Mrs. Weed's husband of 52 years, died six weeks after the move.
"She rose to the occasion," her daughter said. "She knew where the library was. She knew everybody on her street."
In the years after Charley, macular degeneration diminished Mrs. Weed's vision. She lost an eye, and sustained compromised vision in the other eye. Four years ago, she moved in with her daughter.
She listened to books on tape, sometimes as many as three in a day. A month ago, she moved into a nursing home.
Klingensmith, a former firefighter who organized a volunteer emergency response organization in San Antonio, said she has drawn inspiration from her mother and others like her.
"They are our greatest generation," Klingensmith said. "They survived during the Depression when there was not a lot of food on the table. They lived through wars. They are the strongest generation we've ever had."
Mrs. Weed's remains are being shipped to her hometown of Catonsville. She will be buried Monday next to her husband.
Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.