Janice Comfort Walsh, 90, of Gardenville, Bucks County, an occupational therapist and the adopted daughter of author, activist, and humanitarian Pearl S. Buck, died in her sleep Friday, March 11, at Pine Run Health Center, Doylestown.
Born in Troy, N.Y., Miss Walsh was adopted at the age of 3 months in 1925 by Pearl Buck and her first husband, John Lossing Buck, an American agricultural economist specializing in the rural economy of China.
Miss Walsh spent her early years in China, but as political tensions escalated, the family fled to Japan. She and her mother returned to Bucks County in 1934. Pearl Buck divorced her husband in 1935 and married Richard J. Walsh, her editor and publisher.
The family settled on Green Hills Farm in Bucks County. Janice was given the middle name Comfort, an early nickname for her mother, and the surname Walsh.
She graduated from George School in Newtown and Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She chose the field of occupational therapy out of devotion to her sibling Caroline Grace Buck, born to Pearl Buck in 1920. Carol, as she was called, was developmentally disabled. She lived in a mental health school and residence in Vineland, N.J., where she learned to dress and feed herself, color, and verbalize her needs, but little else.
Profoundly affected by Carol's condition, Miss Walsh trained as an occupational therapist specializing in work with the mentally disabled. She became Carol's legal guardian in 1973, the year Buck died.
Miss Walsh also wrote a 16-page afterword to the second edition of her mother's book The Child Who Never Grew, in which Buck chronicled her experience with her disabled daughter. In that essay, Miss Walsh described her own difficulty communicating with Carol.
"Carol's speech was not clear, and since I did not see her daily, I often found it difficult to understand her sentences," she wrote. "But when she spoke in clear, single words, I could usually understand what she was trying to express. She seemed to understand me quite well, but I had to keep the communication simple."
Miss Walsh earned a certificate from the Philadelphia School of Occupational Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania. She also received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Gwynedd Mercy College in 1997.
Her career as an occupational therapist took her to hospitals and health-care facilities in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, working as both a staff member and an administrator.
Miss Walsh also was deeply devoted to the organizations founded by her mother, the author of 80 books and the first American woman to win both the Pulitzer Prize, in 1932 for The Good Earth, and the Nobel Prize, in 1938 for her body of written work.
From 1982 to 1991, Miss Walsh served on the board of directors of Welcome House, an international adoption program. From 1985 to 1997, she led Pearl S. Buck International, an organization in Hilltown, Bucks County, that celebrates multiculturalism and diversity. Welcome House was merged into International and no longer exists.
In addition, Miss Walsh was dedicated to her mother's National Historic Landmark home in Hilltown and cared for the grounds, restored the pond, and created a perennial garden in memory of her mother.
A plaque in front of the garden reads: "Welcome to the Rainbow Garden in honor of the children Pearl S. Buck International serves around the world. The variety of flowers and plants here remind us of the beauty of differences and the potential all children have to blossom."
Loved by the volunteers, staff, and board of directors of Pearl S. Buck International, "Miss Walsh will be remembered for her generosity, kindness and commitment to her mother's legacy," the organization said in a prepared statement.
Miss Walsh never married. She is survived by her adopted siblings, Richard, Jean, Edgar, and Henriette, and a stepbrother, Paul Buck.
Services and burial will be private.
Donations may be made to Pearl S. Buck International, 520 Dublin Rd., Perkasie, Pa. 18944.