Our ‘Sales Diva’ Janet Grella Announces Retirement & Serious Health Issue

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'Sales Diva' Janet Grella pictured at The Waterland Blog's booth at the Poverty Bay Wine Festival.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Janet Grella, the “Sales Diva” for our network of local blogs, has announced her retirement from advertising after nearly 40 years in the biz! This announcement took us all by surprise, and followed on the heels of another even more-shocking announcement made earlier this summer:

“I have an aneurism of my aortic arch and I need open heart surgery.”

Over the past three years Janet has conducted exit and entrance interviews with clients and businesses. We felt it only fair to conduct one with our “Diva.”

Before we get into Janet’s life story, we’d like to first kindly ask all our Readers to please take a moment to say a prayer for her, send positive thoughts or meditate – your choice! Even if you’re a cynic, an atheist or are just a plain meanie, please take a minute to look at Janet’s picture and send some kind of loving, positive message to her, envisioning her fully healed and healthy, and perhaps even repeating her name. THANKS!

Janet started her career in advertising on October 2, 1971 – her 22nd birthday – at the Fort Wayne Newspapers in Indiana. She was the ‘dummy,’ or the person who implemented the newspaper layout. She went on to work at several advertising agencies in Fort Wayne. Her responsibilities included general office, media buying and selling. She also wrote radio and TV commercials and won several awards for her radio voiceovers, as well as an Addy Award for a TV commercial.

In the late 70s she moved to Detroit, where she worked in advertising as a media buyer, media planner and media supervisor. A move to Chicago in 1982 found Janet working as Media Director of Creative Field’s, Marshall Field’s Department Store’s in-house agency. In a period of several years she held several positions including Advertising Director. When the department store chain was sold in 1990 she moved to Advertising/Promotion Director of WMAQ-TV, NBC’s owned and operated station in Chicago.

Janet waves during an Independence Day Parade in Burien.

A marriage and move to California found Janet working with a local magazine as Sales Director and then for a division of Tribune Company as a consultant. She kept the consultancy for several years, even with a move to Burien.  She jumped to the other side of advertising when she began selling ads for the Robinsons’ Highline Times. She was the sales manager and stayed with them for seven years. She took an early retirement in 2009 to travel and study Italian. Retirement lasted 10 months. Then she bumped into Scott Schaefer at The B-Town Blog tent at the Burien Farmers Market.

A few hours later, Janet left the tent as the new Sales Diva!

“I credit Janet with a great deal of our success and growth within our communities. She is a seasoned advertising executive and we were lucky to be associated with her these past three years,” said Schaefer. “I am confident she’ll come through this health scare with flying colors, and I can’t wait to give her a big, non-aortic arch damaging hug at her get well party!”

“Why retire?” we asked Janet.

“This will be my second open heart surgery to repair my aorta. The recovery period is up to four months. It is particularly gruesome the first month or so, as I recall. I knew I couldn’t work for the blogs with any consistency. You know how devoted I am to the blogs and to my clients. Unless I can give 110% effort, I’m not happy. Plus we hope to travel to Italy when I’m recovered, which would further keep me from working. So it just seemed like time.”

"The arotic arch is a very bad place to have an aneurism," - Dr. Joseph Teply. (BTW, that's NOT Janet's heart...that's a model!)

Janet has had one meeting with her surgeon, Joseph Teply of Swedish Heart Institute. She and her husband Michael really liked his no nonsense, tell it like it is attitude. She recalls him saying something to the effect of “I’m not going to sugarcoat it, the arch is a very bad place to have an aneurism.”

“Having an aneurism repaired is an elective surgery. You can have it, or it can break and kill you. No one lives through a burst aneurism. I am told that there is up to a 5% chance of stroke or death during the surgery,” Janet told us.

Janet has not had her pre-op meeting with her surgeon yet, so she does not know all the details of it, but here’s what she does know:

  • She’ll be admitted to the Swedish Heart Institute on Monday, Sept. 12th.
  • Surgery will be performed on Wednesday, Sept. 14th.
  • During surgery, she will be on a heart-lung machine and her body will be cooled to 40 degrees Farenheit. The brain requires much less oxygen when the body is cooled.
  • The surgery is expected to take five hours. Basically a Dacron piece will be attached at either end of the aneurism.
  • According to Dr. Teply, she can expect one day in ICU and a total of five days in the hospital.

Janet’s good friends Sylvia and Bob Harris are having a mass said in Janet’s honor on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at Holy Family Catholic Church in White Center at 8:30 a.m. (located at 9622 20th Ave SW in White Center; 206-767-6220)

In Janet’s own words about the life-changing news:

Almost a year ago my husband Michael and I decided that we’d spend October-December 2011 in Italy.  It would be our fourth and longest trip over our 20 year marriage. During the past year we strategized, discussed, searched, dreamed and booked our “appartmentos” all over Italy; most specifically Rapallo in the North (thanks to local friends), Lecce in the heel of the boot and Roma our favorite city. We were going to stay in the very trendy and non-touristi area of Monti, above the Coliseum.  Thanks to an old college friend and his wife, we were starting our journey in Barcelona in their condo near the main market in Barcelona. “Il perfetto viaggio”, as I say in my very broken italiano. (A perfect trip)

I wept the entire time I was canceling apartments, flights and dreams.

I have been with The B-town Blog and its sister blogs from almost the beginning. This of course includes The Waterland Blog which I like to take credit in encouraging editor/publisher Scott Schaefer in starting due to my long-time association with the Des Moines community from my former job. While working as Sales Diva for the blogs, I met many wonderful people whose associations I value. I therefore wanted all my customers and friends to know of our fabulous trip, and the fact that I would not be working the last three and a half months  of 2011 with Scott and group. Here’s the self-fulling prophecy that I told everyone:

Janet proudly shows off some of the features of The Waterland Blog at a fundraiser party.

“My husband Michael and I are going to Italy for three months the end of this year unless one of us gets sick or dies.”

I was still telling everyone that when I got a call from my new health care provider, Margaret Larson, A.R.N.P.  here in Burien. “You’ve got what looks like a goiter on your thyroid and we have scheduled a CT Scan at HMC for Friday.”  This of course was discovered in a routine chest x-ray that is standard operating procedure at Larson Family Medicine. Michael and I showed up as requested.  The tech told me that the order said “mass in upper chest.” I’ve had experience with “mass in chest” before.

That was in October 1990. That mass turned out to be a really big (baseball sized) aortic aneurism that was repaired with a new aortic valve later in 1990 in my then-hometown of Chicago. It was Michael and my plan to get married as soon as we could after the surgery. Four months to the day we said our “I Dos” in front of lots of friends and family in my new hometown of Palm Springs.

Early Monday morning on July 25, I heard the words that turned my life/our lives upside down again:

“You have an aortic aneurism in the arch of your aorta. It’s 9.8 cm long and 4.5 cm wide.”  That’s about 4 long inches by 2 inches wide.

It seems like forever since I heard those words. As I mentally and emotionally prepare for the big day, I want to give a few shout outs to some of my peeps.

From the business side:

  • First of all to Scott Schaefer, the brains behind the blogs. Thanks for giving an old gal a chance to prove she still has it!
  • Secondly my clients – thanks for believing in me and the power of community websites!

Personal side:

  • To my husband Michael who’s been by my bedside through thick and thin since 1990–You’re a great caregiver. And fun at parties as well!
  • My family and extended family. Sister Chris lending support for mother Garrott back in Indiana. Michael’s sister Gerry and daughter Alice visiting before the surgery and his daughter Rachel coming up to support dad during the surgery.
  • My wonderful ‘friends’ network, from Indiana to Detroit to Chicago, Palm Springs and Seattle. Everyone is making a particularly tough time easier…..and alot more fun!
  • My medical team of Margaret Larson for identifying the problem, Dr. Curtis Burnett my cardiologist and Dr. Joe Teply whose qualified hands I’m placing my life in!

EDITOR’S NOTE II: Janet Grella was our first and only “Sales Diva.” The title of ‘Diva’ retired along with Janet. She is well aware that the door to the blogs is always open for her, and we hope to welcome her back in some capacity in the future. She saved her business cards (“Janet Grella, Sales Diva”) just in case “she gets bored again.”

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32 Responses to “Our ‘Sales Diva’ Janet Grella Announces Retirement & Serious Health Issue”
  1. Our thoughts and prayers are with Janet during her surgery & recovery. We have enjoyed working with her in her differnt roles over the past years and she will be missed. Thanky you for sharing your story – You are a stong lady ~ get well soon!

  2. Rebecca Dare says:

    Thanks for telling us about this remarkable woman. I’ll be thinking of her this week, and hoping for a glitch-free recovery. The plans for Italy won’t be wasted, just postponed.

  3. Janet has been great to work with throughout the years. Very professional and kind. I wish her a speedy recovery!

  4. Megan Sheppard says:

    Miss Janet may be a Diva, but she carries with the title none of its hoighty=toightiness. She’s a peach and a half and a hoot! Sending healing thoughts your way. Thanks for letting us know, Scott.

  5. Lisa Bosques says:

    Janet, you will be in my thoughts and prayers this week. I hope you make a speedy recovery, and that you and Michael can get to Italy soon.

  6. Lori Alden says:

    Thinking of you Janet. All my love and prayers to you and your family. You are a beautiful and strong women my friend.

  7. Gerry says:


    Reading this, I’ve learned some things about you that I hadn’t known.

    Be sure to tell that surgeon not to remove your great wit and good humor.
    Hope this isn’t lost in translation: Vi auguro una pronta guarigione.

    Love, Gerry

  8. Gina Bourdage says:

    I admire Janet for her one of a kind sense of humor, grace and honesty. She’s one lady I always look forward to being around. I am looking forward to that get well party story Ms Diva! All my love.

  9. Nancy Fry says:

    Janet Lucia,

    Be strong, heal well, and do what the nurses tell you to do : ) I am thinking of you, sending you the very best wishes for a successful surgery and healing. Italy is waiting for you.

    Nanuccia la infermiera

  10. Sylvia Harris says:

    Well now, you made me cry! I admire your honesty and openness in giving us all the details of the surgery. And you know you have the love and support of all of us.

    We await the celebration at Cactus as soon as you are up to it!

    Love and prayers,

  11. M-on-a-bike says:

    Janet, as you’re healing up, think of springtime in Italia. Warm sun on the sidewalk café, sipping prosecco and savoring prosciutto, followed by your favorite, just-discovered gelato flavor. Think of your daily shopping at the street market, speaking a little Italiano with your new friends, the fruit and vegetable vendors in your wonderful, trendy little neighborhood.

    Get through this and then on to Italia!
    Un abbraccio per te, (ed anche Michele).
    A presto,

  12. Lucia says:

    Hold the presses. Due to an eye infection, my surgery has been postponed a week! to Wednesday 9/21. Michael and I are available for fun and food this week! Daughter Rachel is flying back to LA. Altho disappointed, we are sure it’s the right thing due to the high risk nature of the surgery and the chance of infection. Thank you all for your well wishes.


  13. atheist says:

    “Even if you’re a cynic, an atheist or are just a plain meanie, please take a minute to look at Janet’s picture and send some kind of loving, positive message to her, envisioning her fully healed and healthy, and perhaps even repeating her name. ”

    Wow. I hope Janet’s surgery goes well. Surgery and science will be much more useful than imagining that thoughts can affect the outcome from a distance.

    The B-town Blog thinks it’s okay to ask atheists to act against their beliefs (or lack thereof). Would you please also ask religious and superstitious people to quit with the nonsense like projecting thoughts and prayers to heal people?

  14. julie riordan says:

    Our dear diva, Janet, What an impressive article on your professional accomplishments. And how fitting that the title has retired with you…Dan and I have so many priceless memories of times spent with you…You neglected to mention that you are the esteemed founder of The 1300 Club…our wedding, your wedding, countless Cubs games (VIP section, of course), losing Daaaan in the bowels of Chicago, your life saver, (savior) sweet Michael coming into your life, visits back and dirtyu between Dallas and Chicago, some really wild rides in a Mercedes…..Now, I will be holding a vision of a healed diva, and her Michael, in Your beloved Italia, toasting the good life with prosecco, and gelato,for dessert. Holding you in much light, love, and prayer, Julie

  15. Our Janet will always be remembered in Chicago. Not only was she the Chairperson of the 1300 Club here, she also introduced the one size fits all 1300 Club robes, (turns out 1 size did not fit all as I recall,) and also helped me on many occasions to perfect the best birth control method ever called “WD”.
    I, as all of us in Chicago, always were and always will be on her side. Wishing you all the best and you are always in our thoughts
    The Master of the WD… Paulie

  16. Marsha says:

    Janet: Good Luck! I hope to see you tomorrow at your Mass.
    The apartment in Rapallo will be there when you’re ready to go.

  17. Rochelle H. Flynn says:

    I first met the Divine Miss J in 2004 when I was on the Discover Burien Board and coordinating the Art Walks. I found her to be charming and delightful and extremely funny. She’s truly one of my favorite people in Burien. I’m sending her lots of light and love and knowing only the best outcome for her health. We love you, Janet!

  18. Char Hamano says:

    With your wonderful attitude and sense of humor, you will do well with this bump in the road. Keep focused on Italy in the spring, the most beautiful time of the year. Looking forward to visiting with you and Michael after the surgery and lunch Cactus

  19. Steve Gilbert says:

    Love you, Janet! Godspeed on your full recovery! Am sending prayers, positive thoughts and good vibrations to you.

    Tutti i miei migliori…Steve

  20. Jeff Dorton says:

    To my cousin Janet,

    My thoughts, prayers, and love go to you constantly. Heal well so that we can all go out to eat again soon and I promise I won’t make fun of Michael and the wine steward when my beer gets there.

    Take care.

    Love you,


  21. Josefina Moschella says:

    I hope all goes well with your surgery; do not forget our rendezvous with Mr. Drapper, I need your fashion advice about what to wear!
    Forza Lucia!

  22. Michele says:

    Sending positive thoughts and energy your way Janet! Michele & the crew at Vino Bello.

  23. Floyd and Patricia Garrott says:

    Cousin Janet:

    Enjoyed reading your bio… You’ve accomplished a lot with your 10-day head start on me!!

    Remember your dad saying ‘When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot!’ Maybe instead of a knot, just get a great surgeon.

    Good luck with your upcoming surgery and recovery. You and Michael remain in our thoughts and prayers.

    Our best,
    Floyd and Pat

  24. Wendy and Tad McKay says:

    As I said in your E-mail.if anyone can do this it is you. Remembering your last battle in’90
    I remember how strong you were. All those trips we made to have your blood tested and not a whimper out of you. You’re a trooper and a winner and this ain’t gonna get you down girl. Sending load of luck and love from Leland Wendy and Tad 🙂

  25. Jack Block Jr. says:


    Your a sweetheart and one of my favorite people. I will be praying that your surgery is a success.

  26. Vicki Dearholt LeBris says:

    You’ve had strength, self-assurance and that wonderful sense of humor at least going back to our days at I.U., and obviously you’ve only upped the volume on them since. We will all expect photos of your wonderful trip to Italy this winter/spring. Meanwhile, behave like a good dog and “Heal!”
    Much love,
    Lil’ VIcki

  27. Susan Mogab says:

    Janet is the best & will get through all of this. Worked with her in Chicago at Marshall Fields. She is amazing. You are in our prayers!

  28. Dana Teeter says:

    I’ve known Janet since 1989 in Chicago and can say that there is no doubt in my mind that she has the fighting spirit and determination needed to get through this surgery. I know we’ll be enjoying her blogs from Italy soon!!! Our very best wishes from the windy city.

  29. Carolyn Rosenfield says:

    All the best thoughts to my first Burien friend and tv buddy. CR

  30. doglover says:

    Janet your a great person and you have my best wishes..

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