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Janet 'Jan' Powell, real estate agent, mother and 'baseball wife' of Orioles' Boog Powell, dies

Baltimore Orioles legend John “Boog” Powell was on a double date in Rochester, N.Y., in 1961 when he met Janet Swinton. She was shy and pretty, he recalls, and had a great figure.

Just one awkward thing: She was on the date with his buddy.

“We gotta do a switcheroo,” he remembers telling his friend.

They did, and Ms. Swinton and Mr. Powell dated the rest of the summer while the future Orioles first baseman was playing with the Rochester Red Wings. They married on July 9, 1962.

“I couldn’t have asked for anybody better to share my life with,” said Mr. Powell, her husband of 56 years. “I loved her with all my heart and I still do.”

Janet “Jan” Swinton Powell, a real estate professional and “baseball wife,” died Aug. 5 in Longwood, Fla., after a long illness. She was 75.

She was born July 17, 1943, in Rochester to Victor Swinton, an engineer, and his wife Leah, a homemaker.

She graduated from Greece Olympia High School in Rochester, then attended one year of college at Kent State University in Ohio before leaving to get married.

By that time, Mr. Powell was playing for the Orioles. He was in Detroit during the All Star break. “I flew from Detroit to Rochester on a Sunday, we got married on a Monday night,” he said. “We rented a car and drove back [to Baltimore].”

Their first home was at Lan Lea Apartments on York Road — where fellow Orioles Dick Williams, Darrell Johnson and Whitey Herzog were also living.

In time, the Powells had three children, all born at Union Memorial Hospital. During the season, the parenting was left to Mrs. Powell.

“Before we got married I tried to explain to her kinda what I thought it was going to be like,” said Mr. Powell. With him traveling so much with the team, “it wasn’t gonna be a picnic.”

Mrs. Powell was unfazed. “She jumped right in the middle of it,” he said. “She never looked back.”

Although she didn’t begin life as a baseball fan, years of watching her husband in action made her an expert. “By the time I finished playing the game she probably knew more baseball than I did,” he said.

If Mr. Powell had a bad day she knew it from listening to the game on the radio. She’d hand him a beer when he got home.

After good games, she’d cook celebratory chicken livers — her husband’s favorite. She was an adventurous and talented cook.

“Mostly she would cook for me after I would come home from the ballpark. She was always looking up all kinds of exotic recipes and trying them out on me.”

Mr. Powell “had a couple pretty good years,” he said, and they bought a house near Memorial Stadium. Brooks Robinson was a neighbor. During games, Mrs. Powell sat with other players’ wives, hands folded politely.

“We were playing pretty good baseball back in those days,” Mr. Powell said.

When her husband traveled, Mrs. Powell carted their children to Little League practice and other activities. She sewed her own clothes, especially in the earlier days of their marriage when money was tight. Sometimes she’d play tennis with friends.

During breaks, they enjoyed spending time in more tropical climates. For two years in the early 1960s, the couple traveled to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, while Mr. Powell played winter baseball.

“We had a ball down there,” he said. On days off they went to the beach, swam and drank rum with coconut juice.

After that trip, “she was officially a baseball wife,” he said.

They bought a home in Miami where they lived during the team’s spring training. After Mr. Powell retired from baseball, the couple bought a marina in Key West and managed a boat business. Mrs. Powell, in characteristic dauntless fashion, took a mechanics class so she would know how to work with their employees.

She later obtained her real estate license and sold homes in Key West. She briefly opened up a clothing business called JP’s of the Keys. She also helped her husband start his barbecue business, which now has branches at Camden Yards and Ocean City.

“She wasn’t afraid to tackle anything,” Mr. Powell said. “She picked things up in a hurry if she wanted to.”

The couple enjoyed diving for lobsters, which they would cook for dinner.

“That was our life back in those days,” Mr. Powell said. “It was a wonderful life.”

Services will be private and held in Key West in October. Mr. Powell said the family will take her ashes to one of her favorite spots on the water, and send her out with the tide.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Powell is survived by two children, John Wesley Powell Jr. of Ocala, Fla. and Jennifer Powell of Longwood, Fla. as well as five grandchildren. Another daughter, Jill Powell, preceded her in death.

ctkacik@baltsun.com

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