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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Author, foster advocate and Ridpath visionary Janet Mann killed in downtown Spokane hit-and-run

Janet Mann and her husband, Paul Mann, pose for a photo. Janet Mann, 78, was walking Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in downtown Spokane when she was killed by a driver who then fled.  (Courtesy of Genevieve Mann Morris)

Janet Mann was probably having a typical, yet amazing, day doing things she loved before she was hit and killed by a driver Tuesday in downtown Spokane.

The 78-year-old author and former director of a local foster parenting program biked 20 miles, joined her meditation group and was on her way to meet her grandson for lunch, said Genevieve Mann Morris, one of Mann’s daughters.

Mann Morris, a Gonzaga University School of Law professor, said her mother was walking in a crosswalk at Browne Street and Main Avenue when a driver struck her and fled. Police say Mann was taken to the hospital and died there from her injuries.

While Mann Morris said she and her family share anger about the fatal hit-and-run, her mother had compassion for everyone, and that probably would include the driver.

“She didn’t have a judgmental bone in her body,” she said. “She just felt deeply that everyone has their own story and their own journey, and she had great compassion. I can’t think of a single time she had a negative word for anybody.”

Spokane police spokeswoman Julie Humphreys said no arrests have been made, and police are examining evidence, including surveillance video.

“This person, unfortunately, ruined our life and their own – what could have been a mistake – by leaving,” Mann Morris said.

Mann and her husband, Paul Mann, were two of the primary owners who revitalized the Ridpath Club Apartments, 515 W. Sprague Ave. The married couple of 55 years lived on the top floor of the former downtown hotel.

They would have celebrated their 56th anniversary later this month. They have three children, including Mann Morris, and four grandchildren.

Mann Morris said her mom loved living downtown. Mann was an “amazingly active person” who rode her bicycle 20 miles a day, did yoga, meditated and walked everywhere.

Mann  (Courtesy of Genevieve Mann Morris)
Mann (Courtesy of Genevieve Mann Morris)

“They feel deeply connected to the community,” she said of her parents. “That’s their home. They know the tenants by name. They talk to each other. They do a Thanksgiving dinner in the building.”

The Mann couple created the nonprofit Children’s Ark in 1995, and ran it until 2009, Mann Morris said.

In a 2021 TEDx Talk about Mann’s foster care experiences and lessons, Mann said she and her husband bought, renovated and moved into a historic Browne’s Addition home, where they ran the Ark.

The Spokane nonprofit was a center for evaluation and intervention services for at-risk parents and children.

A 1996 Spokesman-Review story said the Children’s Ark was the only opportunity in Spokane for children in foster care to remain with their mothers in a supervised setting.

“We needed to do for the parents what we wanted them to do for their children. If we wanted to help the children, we needed to help the parents. And the way to help the parents was to enter into genuine relationship with them,” Mann said during the talk. “As it turns out, the relationships themselves became the catalyst for change.”

Mann Morris said the foster children, their parents and the Mann couple lived at the home. Eventually, the nonprofit transitioned, in which the parents came to the house during the day but did not live there.

“The court system is not the place to solve family problems, because you have to win or lose,” Mann told The Spokesman-Review of the program.

The couple cared for over 120 foster children during their time as foster parents, Mann said in the TEDx Talk.

“She just was someone who cared deeply about children in this community,” Mann Morris said.

Mann and Molly Kretchmar-Hendricks, a Gonzaga University developmental psychology professor, co-authored a book, “Creating Compassionate Foster Care: Lessons of Hope for Children and Families in Crisis,” in 2017.

The book draws from real foster care situations and childhood attachment research to help foster caregivers and professionals better respond to the complex needs of children and parents in crisis.

Dr. Molly Kretchmar-Hendricks, left, and Janet Mann pose with a copy of their book about foster care Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, at Gonzaga University. Mann was hit and killed while walking in downtown Spokane Tuesday, June 11, 2024.  (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Dr. Molly Kretchmar-Hendricks, left, and Janet Mann pose with a copy of their book about foster care Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, at Gonzaga University. Mann was hit and killed while walking in downtown Spokane Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Mann in 2017 told the story of a young girl who started acting up around Christmastime after being adopted out of the foster care system. Eventually, her adoptive parents figured out that she associated that time of year with the pain of past moves to a new home.

“She had unconsciously connected holidays with loss,” she said. “We need to keep those things in mind in foster care – how is a child experiencing something?”

Mann Morris said her mother was standing Tuesday afternoon on the corner of Main and Browne waiting to cross the street. She said her mother, who had the walking signal to cross, stepped into the crosswalk and the driver, who was turning, hit her.

“She wouldn’t even be mad at this person,” said Mann Morris, noting her mother’s openminded attitude.

Police Lt. Nate Spiering said the gray- or champagne-colored Chevrolet Silverado full-size truck drove away. The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office said Mann died of blunt force injuries and ruled the death an accident.

“She was all about relationships,” Mann Morris said. “There are so many people that she touched in Spokane and all over.”