Angela Barnes and her three siblings grew up with the philosophy that challenges were meant to be overcome.
They learned creativity, determination, courage and self-reliance from their parents, who spent most of their lives in wheelchairs.
Mother Janet was quadriplegic, and father Harold was paraplegic. But the couple held jobs, remodeled homes, attended church, planted gardens and bred dogs.
"I didn't see them as handicapped," said Angela, 63, of Fairview Heights. "That was just how life worked.
"As a little girl, I remember standing on a step-stool by the stove, stirring gravy. Mother told me how to do it, and I wanted to do it, because Daddy's gravy had lumps."
On a recent weekday, Angela sat next to Janet at Willowcreek nursing home in Belleville. The 84-year-old was too tired and medicated to talk. She breathes with a ventilator.
Janet had been living independently in Columbia, Mo., until a year ago, when she got hit by a car on her way home from the bank.
"She was propelled from her wheelchair, and she landed on her cheek," Angela said. "It broke just about every bone in her body."
Penned with love
Angela is glad she recently took time to self-publish a book, "90-pound Heavyweight Janet Barnes: Her Story, Words and Life in Vignette."
"The message is, with all sincerity, life is really about what you make of it," wrote reviewer Michelle Baumstark, spokeswoman for Columbia Public Schools, where Janet volunteered.
Angela also helped get her mother recognized as the longest-living incomplete quadriplegic. A Guinness World Records certificate is taped to the wall of her room.
"Incomplete" means Janet has limited feeling and movement in her arms and legs. As a girl, she could walk on crutches and ride a bike with training wheels.
"I have always believed I am the most fortunate of people," Janet wrote in a 1998 letter reprinted in the book. "I have enough disability to totally appreciate the ability I have. I would not trade places with anyone."
The former Janet Strong was born at home in Mount Vernon in 1928. A country doctor broke her neck during delivery and refunded $5 for mishandling the breech birth, according to family.
Some people later suspected Janet had cerebral palsy, but it never was diagnosed.
The local board of education provided her with home-schooling in first through fourth grades, then sent a driver to pick her up. She was 11 when the family moved to St. Louis.
"She was editor of the newspaper in high school," Angela said. "She was involved in a lot of activities."
Janet later graduated from photography school and worked off and on as a photo retoucher and receptionist.
Harold was born with club feet. He grew up in an orphanage, contracted polio and became a paraplegic after 13 surgeries. Janet met him in her neighborhood at 18.
"He was wheeling up the hill in his wheelchair," she writes in the book. "He came up (to the house), and we sat on the steps and talked."
Starting a family
The couple married at the courthouse in 1949, each weighing 107 pounds.
Angela was the Barneses' first child. They saved up for a C-section because doctors didn't think Janet could deliver naturally, but she proved them wrong. The couple used the extra money to buy a refrigerator.
Harold worked as a hospital switchboard operator and did odd jobs, such as washing cars and selling balloons at carnivals.
"We had a dog named 'Something,'" Janet writes in the book. "That dog high-tailed over the fence and tried to get out, and we'd go up and down the street and holler, 'Here Something! Here Something!'"
Howard remodeled two homes -- installing windows, replacing pipes, lowering ceilings and even pouring concrete. He also fitted vehicles with hand controls so he could drive without using his legs.
The Barneses were married 35 years before Harold died in 1979 after a series of heart attacks. He was 54.
"Daddy was always there for Mother," Angela said. "He would get her up and get her dressed every day before he went to work, no matter what. That was the biggest gift of her life."
Life after "Daddy"
Harold's death prompted Janet to move to Columbia. She picked that city because of its reputation for handicap-accessibility and resources.
Janet volunteered at Shepard Boulevard Elementary School for years, sitting with young children in the hall and listening to them read.
Many students have sent homemade get-well cards and drawings to the nursing home.
"Everybody called her 'Grandma Janet,' even the principal," said parent Beth Cunningham, 49. "Everybody knew her and loved her."
Beth's daughter, Grace, 11, attends the school and son, Quinn, 13, formerly attended.
Grace remembers students in her first-grade class arguing about who could read with Janet until a waiting list was created.
"Her disability never got in the way of who she was," Beth said. "She was just Grandma Janet. The kids never really talked about the fact that she was in a wheelchair."
Hard act to follow
Today, Janet has three living children, nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Angela is a real-estate manager and investor. She wrote "90-pound Heavyweight" after she and her husband, Robert Haug, 80, self-published a book called "Bamboozled and Outmaneuvered: He Says, She Says."
Angela is using the book on Janet as a fundraising tool to help pay for therapy and other expenses related to her comfort and care.
"Life with mother has been hard, but she's also a hard act to follow," Angela said. "She made things work with nothing. She did it with grace and beauty. She made things pretty.
"She was very capable. She could accomplish more than most able-bodied people."
How you can help
* Buy a copy of "90-pound Heavyweight Janet Barnes: Her Story, Words and Life in Vignette" for $15 through heartspokenwords.com or the Facebook page for 90-pound Heavyweight. Call 618-398-4357 for more information.
* Attend daughter Angela's book reading from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at The Abbey, 5801 N. Main in Belleville, where limited-edition copies will be available. Call 618-277-8373 for more information.
* Donate to the Janet Barnes Special Needs Trust Fund (account No. 0087698854) at Regions Bank; any donor can get a free pdf of the book if requested.
* Volunteer to give physical or occupational therapy or otherwise provide needed services.
* Send a cheerful card or letter to Janet Barnes, c/o Willowcreek Rehabilitation and Nursing, 40 N. 64th St., Belleville, IL 62208.