Janice Arden was one of 11 children born to her parents during the Great Depression years in Washington, Pa.
She was born with club feet and was in a wheelchair with casts on her legs through her early childhood. After Ms. Arden endured several surgeries, doctors were able to help her walk at the age of 11.
"She had to be a fighter from the day she was born," said her daughter, Cindy DeVos-Klingensmith. "Her feet were almost totally turned around at birth."
But by the time the surgeons were done, "You couldn't even tell, and that's miraculous for that time and era.
"Her feet were straight."
Because of the number of children in her home and the related expenses, Ms. Arden went out on her own at age 13 -- spending time as a singer, optician, security professional and businesswoman before retiring.
She died Saturday at Jefferson Regional Medical Center at age 75. She had Alzheimer's disease.
Ms. DeVos-Klingensmith described her mother as elegant and charming, someone who loved to throw and attend parties.
"My mother loved pretty things," she said.
A talented vocalist, she spent her early 20s singing in military clubs in the South as the lead vocalist for a group called The Roulettes in South Carolina.
"If Patsy Cline wouldn't have been Patsy Cline, my mother would have been Patsy Cline," said Ms. DeVos-Klingensmith of Scott.
For her daughters' lullabies, Ms. Arden would bring the band home and sing to her girls.
After living in a number of military towns, including in Roswell, N.M., and England, Ms. Arden returned to the Pittsburgh area. She worked as a secretary in an optometry office in Canonsburg, eventually working her way up to become an optician.
She worked for an optometrist in Carnegie as well before working as the chief security officer at the Koppers Corp. in Bridgeville.
"Nobody got in that plant without her first approving it," Ms. DeVos-Klingensmith said. It was the 1980s, and "She worked with all men and kept them in line."
Later, Ms. Arden and her husband of 35 years, Norm Arden, started a contracting company in Latrobe. Mr. Arden handled excavation equipment and small home repairs while Ms. Arden handled the money.
"She was a wonderful lady," Mr. Arden said. "She was my love."
He described his wife as cheerful and easy to get along with, but also as someone who was tough.
"She had it all," he said. "She was a fighter."
The Ardens lived in Finleyville and spent time touring Amish country in a travel trailer. They also took annual trips to Myrtle Beach -- a place Ms. Arden loved before it became a popular tourist destination.
She enjoyed sewing and gardening, as well as spending time with her grandchildren -- whom she taught to skinny dip in her pool.
In addition to her husband and daughter, Ms. Arden is also survived by daughters Sherry DeVos-Quail of Dunlevy and Jan DeVos-Crawford of Scott; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. today at Beinhauers Funeral Home, 2828 Washington Road, McMurray. A funeral will be held at Beinhauers at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Interment will follow at Woodruff Memorial Park.
Contributions may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 1100 Liberty Ave., Suite E-201, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2620.