Janet Wainwright

Dec. 20, 1947 - March 6, 2019
Janet Wainwright, Dec. 20, 1947 - March 6, 2019

Janet Snowden Wainwright, who had been head of the law department at MCI, a telecommunications company, died of lung cancer on March 6 at her home in Takoma Park, Md. A longtime summer resident of Wainscott, she was 71 and had been ill for four years.

  Ms. Wainwright’s family described her as a “natural, charismatic leader.” She started her 15-year career at MCI as a paralegal and ultimately earned the top legal post despite lacking a degree from college or law school.

Born on Dec. 20, 1947, in Rockville Centre to the former Janet Parsons and Stuyvesant Wainwright II, Ms. Wainwright spent her early years in Wainscott, where she attended the hamlet’s tiny school. She participated in junior activities at the Maidstone Club and began a lifelong love of reading by exploring the stacks and checking out books from the East Hampton Library. Later in life, she often read two mystery novels a day, often choosing from among Georges Simenon’s many novels.

An eager learner, Ms. Wainwright studied archaeology, antiquities, and early Christian art, and the practice of restoring classical art. Before she became ill, she participated in a restoration project in Cortona, Italy, and taught herself to speak Italian.

She also taught herself to speak Spanish and used that language to help migrants deal with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. 

In later life, she became an artist. Taking classes at several community colleges and universities, she developed a technique for painting tiles depicting the lives of saints and obscure medieval legends, as well as scenes of her own invention. 

In 1967, she married Charles Brandon Waring, and the couple raised two children in Bluffton, S.C. They later ran the Sweetfield Leather Company, which manufactured and sold leather goods on Savannah’s historical River Street in  South Carolina. The marriage ended in divorce. 

She married Edmund Kirby-Smith IV at St. Luke’s Church in East Hampton in 1979. They lived in a house next door to her mother in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., where they raised a daughter. The family later moved to Takoma Park. Her second marriage also ended in divorce

Ms. Wainwright is survived by her children, Snowden Maria Kirby-Smith of Takoma Park, Md., Benjamin Alston Waring of Mingo, W.Va., and Belle Buchanan Waring of Singapore. Other survivors include her siblings, Stuyvesant Wainwright III of East Hampton and Homosassa, Fla., Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright of Wainscott and New York City, and Laura Livingston Wainwright of Martha’s Vineyard. Two grandchildren also survive. 

A memorial service will be held at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Bridgehampton at 4 p.m. on June 22. 

The family has suggested donations to the Gift Processing Department of the American Civil Liberties Union, 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor, New York 10004, or to Kids in Need of Defense, an organization that provides legal representation for migrant children who have been separated from their parents while seeking asylum in the United States. That address is KIND, 1201 L Street, N.W., 2nd Floor, Washington, D.C. 20005.