Soft hues adorn this immaculate abode, casting a spell of tranquility upon the guests at Fisher House, which serves military families who have traveled away from home to be with a loved one in their time of need. The length of stay is unknown, but the memories and relationships created here will last a lifetime, as they become member of the extended family.
Janet Grampp is a former air traffic controller. She is the heart of this house. The former Staff Sgt., who once safely guided planes, now guides these families to a home away from home.
“I have had the opportunity to meet thousands of families going through some pretty tough times,” said Janet Grampp, the Joint Base Andrews Fisher House manager.
Grampp joined the Air Force in 1979 at 20 years old, continuing the tradition that started with her grandfather, her father, herself and now her children.
As one of five children growing up in the military, they faced the challenges of traveling every two years and living in many different places. They were always the new kids in school, having to start over.
“It shaped who I am as an adult, and gave me the tools to cope with stressful situations,” said Grampp. She was fortunate to have very strong and influential role models in her parents, whom she describes as “hard-working, honest, funny, loving, kind and compassionate.”
“My father encouraged us to be strong and independent,” she said. “I credit my parents for giving me the support and strength to choose a path that was a little different than my contemporaries.”
Her father passed away 28 years ago. Her mother, Rachael Munroe, now 75 years old, lives with Grampp and volunteers at Fisher House almost every day.
“Rachel has always had a strong work ethic, raising five children as a working military wife, while moving around the world,” said Grampp. “She kept a clean house, kept us fed, worked at various jobs in the locations where we lived and took us to church on Sundays. She was, and still is a dynamo.”
There is no doubt Grampp makes a difference. The traits inherited by her parents make doing her job come as second nature. While most people keep their jobs separate from their personal lives, for her, there is no separation when it comes to the business of caring for others.
“Who she is personally is who she is professionally,” said Master Sgt. Chris Sweet, 11th Force Support Squadron Military and Family Support Center non-commissioned officer in charge.
Sweet and Grampp met in September 2008 when he and his three children arrived from Germany following his wife, Jessica, who was Medevac’d to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“Janet welcomed us with open arms into the Fisher House family, and in turn, she became a part of our family,” said Sweet. “She has the ability to make you feel like you are the only guest.”
The Sweets stayed for three months, along with Chris’s parents, while Jessica received cancer treatment, and then moved out to buy a home of their own for Christmas. She died February 2009.
“Our family was shattered and Janet was still right there,” he said. “She brought over enough food to feed an army and hugs for everyone.”
Grampp has been a great influence to many.
“She is like a godmother to me and without her even knowing, she became my mentor, my role model, the person I went to bounce ideas off of,” said Sweet.
Her family has had its share of tragedy.
While caring for her extended families, she has been the primary caregiver for the majority of her life with her family - raising her four children, caring for her in-laws and her parents.
“My mother-in-law suffered from Alzheimer’s and my husband and I had her with us for several years,” she said. She took care of her mother during a five-year battle with cancer.
Being on the receiving end of care gave her a profound appreciation for the people who helped take care of her mother-in-law in hospice.
This journey at the Fisher House and facing so much loss would be very emotionally challenging for any caregiver, and there have been days she cried on her way home from work. But it has also been a gift.
“I get more than I give,” she said. Grampp feels blessed to be in the position to help others and it gives her the enthusiasm to do what she does every day. Helping others is gratifying, but the families she helps are what truly inspire her.
To maintain a healthy balance, giving and receiving are like the tide’s ebb and flow.
“I find humor in my life, and it’s my saving grace,” said Grampp, a self-proclaimed beach bum. “I find that walking on the beach is the best therapy for me.”
This year marks Grampp’s 20th anniversary as the heart that makes the Andrews Fisher House a home.