Farewell, Janette Heung

The former assistant director for the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office made a real difference.

The writer Grahame Greene said; “You can’t conceive, nor can I, the appalling strangeness or mercy of God.” To lose Janette Heung, who was so talented, so driven, and so focused on sharing her passions with all those around her, is a loss difficult to bear. 

While I was serving as the Director for the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office under Governor Hickenlooper, the momentum and visibility of the office was growing nationally and we secured funding for a deputy director. I didn’t want the person who filled the role to just be there to answer emails and help with workload—I wanted someone who would take our work to the next level. That’s when Janette showed up.

In the offfice, Janette was a rock star. She had an impeccable academic background with degrees from Tufts in Physics and Biomedical Engineering to a Masters of Public and Environmental Health from Harvard’s School of Public Health. She attacked her work voraciously. This dedication led to the creation of OutdoorsRx, in 2017, a network that connects outdoor and public health professionals that states and universities use to this day. At heart, she was a dedicated and talented climber who deeply believed in the restorative power of the outdoors.

I used to joke with Janette, who died in a tragic climbing accident last month, that she was exactly who we needed to show up and help lead the outdoor industry–someone who grew up outside the USA and understands how the world at large works, as well as someone highly educated and deeply passionate about the outdoors. Let us in this moment of loss allow her work to live on and continue to help define the impact the outdoor recreation industry can and does have on all of us. 

—Luis Benitez

Cover photo: Janette Heung in the mountains she loved. Photo courtesy Eva Krchova.

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