Jo Ann Thomas, age 67, of Winona, passed away peacefully in the comfort of her home on Friday, February 19, 2021, surrounded by her family. All those who knew and loved Jo Ann admired her strength and perseverance throughout her 25-year battle and recurrences of cancer.
Jo Ann was born on July 8, 1953, in Columbia, MO, to two physicians, Dr. Helen Yeager Thomas and Dr. Horace Thomas, and received her bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College in Iowa. She began her professional career as a community organizer working for People Involved in Rice County, Minnesota COACT (Citizens Organizations Acting Together), and the Land Stewardship Project. A strong feminist, she then applied her organizational skills to the empowerment of women, serving as the director of Houston County Women’s Resources and then as co-director of the Women’s Resource Center in Winona.
She met her husband, Douglas Nopar, while working together at Minnesota COACT in Minneapolis. Jo Ann and Doug later relocated to Winona. They were married on August 16, 1986 at the Winona Arts Center. Raising two daughters to be caring, intelligent, wise, loving and powerful young women gave Jo Ann the greatest joy of all -- she loved being a mom.
Relationships were very important to Jo Ann, and it is no surprise that she had a large network of close friends who adored and revered her. That included five friendships from kindergarten that she actively carried forward throughout her life. She had a way of making others feel loved and welcomed in her presence, and she was someone that people gravitated to and wanted to be around. She will be deeply missed by all those who knew and loved her.
Jo Ann was wise, insightful and perceptive. A great listener, she was always interested in getting to know and learn about you. Jo Ann could also be fiery and sassy - she was never afraid to speak her mind, but did so in a straight-forward and loving way. She constantly sought new reasons for living and making a difference in the lives of others.
After being diagnosed with cancer in 1996, Jo Ann dedicated herself to her own healing and that of others. Armed with ten years of previous lay experience providing homeopathic remedies to family and friends, she shifted her career path to become a certified classical homeopath. She was inspired by her own journey and the desire to help others. Jo Ann completed the three-year clinically-based training at the Northwestern Academy of Homeopathy in St. Louis Park, MN, graduating in 2000 and opening her practice in Winona, where she served clients for 20 years.
Alongside some conventional medical treatments for her cancer, Jo Ann also sought out alternative treatments and healing, not only of her body, but also of her mind and spirit. Jo Ann firmly believed that mind-body healing was possible, and she led and supported many on their healing path. In recent years, she was dedicated to the healing practice of Qi Gong meditation.
Jo Ann could often be found in the afternoons chatting with friends at the Blue Heron Coffeehouse or walking around Lake Winona. She was an incredible cook and baker. She also enjoyed her perennial garden, knitting, reading novels, and swimming in Lake Superior. Jo Ann was deeply committed to social and economic justice, women’s rights, and care of the Earth.
Jo Ann is lovingly survived by her husband, Douglas Nopar, Winona; children: Elizabeth (Sebastian Veloso Olave) Thomas, Milwaukee, WI; Sylvia (fiancé Fernando Cesar Silveira Queiroz) Thomas, Minneapolis; sisters: Mary (Wayne Davis) Thomas, Ingram, TX; Carol Thomas, Columbia, MO; Davika Thomas, Columbia, MO; Nancy (Christopher McLean) Thomas, Berkeley, CA, and their children: Reed and Helen; father-in-law: Richard Nopar, Wilmette, IL; brother-in-law: Kenneth (Carolyn) Nopar, Arlington Heights, IL and their children: Katherine and Lauren Nopar; as well as her many friends, locally and abroad. She was preceded in death by her parents and her mother-in-law, Dorothy Nopar.
Honoring Jo Ann’s legacy, memorials would be appreciated to the following organizations: the Advocacy Center of Winona (formerly Women’s Resource Center); Ridgeway Community School; Simonton Cancer Counseling Center; Land Stewardship Project; or the Winona Catholic Worker.
Funeral services, via Zoom, will be held at 1 PM on Friday, March 5, 2021. Shiva will be held, via Zoom, at 2 PM on Sunday, March 7, 2021. Those wishing to participate in the service and Shiva should e-mail email@example.com for the Zoom contact information and links.
Watkowski-Mulyck Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.
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