Joan (Joann) Rose (Gierok) Mayer – February 5, 1941-June 8, 2019
Our Dad came on Saturday to take our Mom to heaven. We are positive they are both happy to be back together. When Dad went to heaven two years ago, they had been married for 56 years. The past two years have been the longest they had ever been apart.
Our Mom was the baby of the family, born to Charlie and Lizzy in the winter of ’41. Her parents taught her to be honest, have integrity, work hard, believe in yourself and what you believe to be right. She had a stubborn side and a fighting side, but these were always overshadowed by her caring and loving side, and she was very caring and loving.
Nothing could hold her down. She roller skated so much, she wore the wheels off her skates. She always wanted to do everything and go everywhere. Throughout her life, she made many many friends. Some she came across on her journey through life, some she worked with, some she worked for, but all remained friends the entirety of their lives. When she was old enough, she babysat for a lot of neighborhood kids, but one in particular was the Riska’s. They had a grocery store on 8th Street. One day little Tom told his mom, Olga, that he loved his babysitter Joann so much that when he grew up he was going to marry a Joann just like her, and he did.
As a teenager she earned her spending money by waitressing at the Hot Fish Shop and the greasy spoon on Mankato Avenue, and bartending in her Dad’s bar. No wonder she was such a great cook, she learned all she could from her mother, her Polish relatives, and from the places she worked.
Like most her friends in the ‘50s, she hung out mostly at the greasy spoon on Mankato, she smoked, drank and had fun, she liked playing basketball in school and in later years was in a bowling league. She graduated from Cotter High School in 1959, and caught the eye of our Dad, Robert Mayer, by throwing snowballs at him. Their romance led to a long and fruitful life together. She married Dad on September 17, 1960. Love bloomed, and in ’61, she became a mother to a boy (Beaver) who had colic and cried all day and night. It took Mom, Antie Doris and Grandma Lizzy working in shifts to make it through. Giving up was not in her nature. Despite the long days and nights with the first baby, she had four more kids, three boys and one girl.
She was a “stay at home” Mom and a homemaker. We wanted for nothing. We may not have been “rich,” but there was no better feeling than being sheltered, protected, fed, educated and very well loved and cared for. Us kids got all these things in spades. Holidays, especially Christmas, were always done to the hilt. She always had whatever you wanted for food, and she always managed to find that hard to find Christmas or birthday present.
Mom was a great cook and took care of us all. We had everything we needed or wanted. She and Dad made sure we had everything they never had…and then some. When we were sick or hurt, she lovingly cared for us, she mended our clothes, and made us laugh. Mom enjoyed us all and often said she would’ve had more if she could’ve. She was so happy to be a Nana, with 11 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. She was always happy to have them come over anytime, especially for the holidays. She always had time to give a ride, get caught up on what the grandkids were up to, offer a treat or some of her wisdom. In recent years, she got a kick out of the great-grandkids pushing her in her wheelchair, playing cards or games, or just going for an ice cream.
Mom didn’t just care for us, she cared for her parents and mother-in-law as they aged and became ill, and then she cared for her sister Doris after their parents went to heaven. She always sent cards to her elderly friends, visited them, and took them baked goods she had made.
Mom and Dad always had God in their lives, even if they didn’t always attend church. They made sure we had a great Catholic education at St. Stans. In later years, Mom started going to church, sometimes us kids would go with her or even the grandkids. Mom always donated her time at St. Stans. She brought food for BINGO, and you could always find her homemade suckers at the sweet booth at the bazaar. In fact the week prior to her stroke, she had been making homemade suckers for the bazaar. She not only made the suckers, but for years we all made snip candy and she would take that to the bazaar to be sold and hand it out to our neighbors and friends. Every holiday there were cookies, fudge, bonbons, pumpkin rolls and a wide assortment of treats. She always had candy dishes around the house, M & M’s were a staple until the day she went to heaven.
Our Mom was always busy doing something. Along with all the household chores and taking care of us, she loved being outside in her flower gardens, just like her mom. Her flowers surrounded the outside of the house and yard and were even found throughout the inside. She loved to help her dad with the vegetable garden, and when he could no longer take care of it, she and our brother Beaver took over. At harvest time she did the canning.
When all of us kids were finally in school, instead of taking it easy, she decided to go to work. She began working for her long-time friend Olga at the Castle Dress Shop, and when the store closed down, she tried working at Lake Center and the Knitting Mills but found manufacturing life was not for her. She ended up at the “New Kmart.” Mom was a pharmacy technician and was there for 15 years. She retired from Kmart, but didn’t want to be “retired.” She then tried Fleet Farm and even took nursing assistant training, but settled on JC Penny. Low and behold, 15 years later, she retired again. Mom didn’t really need the money, but she liked to keep busy and visit with people.
Mom had several collections that her work money helped to make happen, along with Christmases, birthdays and Mother’s Day, and anytime Dad saw something she would want. Her collections included dolls, frogs, owls, and angels. The biggest collection was her dolls, I guess because as a kid she only had two dolls. Our house was always full of frogs and owls, angels, and of course, dolls.
In Mom’s life, she traveled extensively. As a family, we’ve been all over the United States, and she traveled with Dad to England, France and Italy. She was shocked to see a naked stranger on the corner in San Francisco and was remarried by Elvis in Vegas. The folks loved to go for rides to all the old stomping grounds and a few new ones. In their retirement years, they were always spending our “Inheritance” at various casinos. It was great to see them go and have so much fun together. On Saturday nights they could be found at Sloppy Joe’s, the Red Men’s Club or Blanche’s/Rosies. Even after she had a stroke, dad bought a handicap van so they could still go as they pleased, and go they did. They rode around and went out to eat, for such a simple thing, it sure pleased them both. They were like young kids again with their love renewed. Dad told me it was the best purchase he ever made.
Mom was always constantly on the go, running like a “Chicken with the head cut off.” She loved to go and talk to everybody. We joked that her and Dad knew everyone in town. The last three and a half years have been hard for Mom, but I think harder for us, who had to watch her have everything taken from her. The stroke took her movement on her right side and her words. She could no longer talk, and she could no longer do what she wanted and go where she wanted. For the first time in her life, she had to rely on others to take care of her. She lost her home and the love of her life. She has surely earned her angel wings. We’ve tried to do the best for her, but she deserved better.
Even through all of this, she endured it with the strength that she always had. The fighter in her truly came thru. A lesser person would never have endured such limitations. Even though she couldn’t get all the words out, she still managed to let us know we were loved and that she knew we were doing our best.
Mom endured the stroke, bowel obstruction, an auto-immune disease, bladder and kidney infections, a huge kidney stone, and to top it all off, Thrush. She never asked, “why me” and she never felt sorry for herself. She just rolled with whatever came her way. That’s our Ma. On June 8, her torment ended. Everything wore her down to the point she just couldn’t fight anymore, and Dad came for her.
Our Dad took Mom to heaven where she was met by her parents, Charlie and Lizzie Gierok; sister, Doris Gierok; brother, Charles Gierok, Jr; in-laws, Dan and Eleanore Janikowski; grandparents; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.
Those that will be missing her forever, include her sons: Beaver “Robert, Jr.” (Charlotte), Charlie (Bonnie), Dan (Cindy), Joe (Becky); daughter, Mary Jo (Darrell); 11 grandchildren: Chris (Ali) Mayer, C.J. Mayer, Kaylee (Brandon) Gustafson, Joanna (Josh De Leon) Mayer, Chase Mayer, Isaac Mayer, Mitchell Mayer, Shauna Mayer, Michael Mayer, Cody Conley, and Alicia Conley; nine great-grandchildren: Eric, Noah, Wesley, Oliver and Clark Gustafson, Alistair Mayer, Rosemary De Leon, Kalise Conley, and Kaiya Hill; dearest cousins, who diligently called and wrote to check up on Mom: Bernell Schreiber, Arcadia, WI, and Gert Gierok, St. Charles, MN; as well as other relatives and friends.
Our Mom is the kind of Mom everybody wished they had. We know she’ll be watching over us, and we will see her in every flower, owl, frog or doll collection. We now have two angels watching over us. Thank you God for giving us our Mom; we will never know love like that again.
Visitation will be held from 5 PM until 7 PM, on Thursday, June 13, 2019, at the Watkowski-Mulyck Funeral Home, where Deacon Justin Green will lead a Christian Wake Service at 6:45 PM. Visitation will also be held from 9 AM until the Mass of Christian Burial at 10 AM, on Friday, June 14, 2019, at the Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka. The Very Reverend Patrick Arens will officiate. Joan will be laid to rest in St. Mary’s Cemetery.
Online condolences or memories may be left for Joan’s family at www.watkowski-mulyck.com.