Janet Sue “Sissy” Praska, 67, of Brainerd, passed away Tuesday, April 13, 2021, at Essentia Health – St. Joseph’s Medical Center. A visitation will take place from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at Nelson – Doran Funeral Home in Brainerd. The family requests attendees honor social distancing and mask requirements.
Janet was born April 6, 1954, in Minneapolis, MN, the daughter of Charles Earl and Grace Janet (Johnson) Akerson. She grew up in Edina until her family moved to Pequot Lakes, where she graduated from high school. After high school, Janet decided to continue her education and, perhaps, find a cowboy to settle down with by studying the lucrative field of Light Horse Management at the University of Minnesota, Crookston. While in college, she found great friends, parties and was pursued by a country bumpkin from Greenbush, Minnesota, Greg Praska. Greg’s persistence paid off, and in 1979, they were married.
They settled in Pequot Lakes and Janet was the Administrative Assistant to the Principal at Pequot School, where she could get hook-ups on extra school rabbits and a damaged original Apple 2GS computer. The family then decided to move to the burgeoning metropolis of opportunity, Brainerd, MN. They founded the one and only Brook Creek Farm, where they continued raising horses, and Janet created stained glass masterpieces.
In 1988, Sissy began working at the State Hospital as a volunteer coordinator. Sissy also believed in the pursuit of bettering herself through education, and she and Greg were among the first graduates of St. Scholstica's Bachelor program offered through Brainerd Community College.
She received her BA in Business and later earned a mulititude of additional degrees, including in computer programming and network administration. Sissy then worked as a computer programmer for the State of Minnesota for 28 years, where she made many lasting memories and friendships. Janet and Greg successfully grew and operated several small businesses. In 1989, they decided to purchase a small charitable gambling distributorship because free time was overrated. Brainerd Games was born. One theory of their success was Janet’s fudge-making skill, which enabled them to thank their clients during each holiday season. However, Janet’s true passion was helping others, especially through her equine volunteer work. Over her lifetime, she developed two 4-H programs, Horse Bowl and Horse Drill Team, which received statewide recognition. She was also active at Camp Shamineau and encouraged an appreciation of horses in all the students she mentored more broadly.
Sissy's other love was traveling with her family and going on all types of adventures, ranging from ziplining in Costa Rica to bird watching in Tobago to unintentional mountain climbing in Saint Martin. No one was better at capturing the moment with photos than Sissy. She used these photos, her general craftiness, and her willingness to mandate costume-wearing to create scrapbooks, posterboards, and games for family events.
Finally, Sissy was devoted to her family.She strove to make all family events special in some way. She is preceded in death by her parents Charles & Grace Akerson, her brother Jerry Akerson and her husband, Greg. Sissy is survived by her brothers, John, Jim, and Jason Akerson, her sister, Judy McFarlin, her sons Henry (Kara Schaefer), Charlie (Meghan Thurlow), and Bruce (Ariel), and her step-daughter Kandi Franco (Billy). She also adored her grandchildren, Andrea, Karina, Valente, Kitty, Benjamin, Marni, Harleyann, and many nieces and nephews.
Janet "Sissy" Praska will be greatly missed by friends and family. As a 3-time survivor of cancer, she would also want to remind everyone that "Life is an Adventure,” so make sure you live it. She certainly did.
In lieu of flowers or money, the family would appreciate any donations to the Minnesota 4H Foundation or the Masonic Cancer Center.
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