On Sunday, May 10, 2020, Joanna “Jo” Seifert, passed away peacefully at her home in Winona, MN at the age of 86.
Jo was born August 3, 1933, to Donald and Wilda (Blevins) Owen in Wabash, IN. The family later moved to Lafayette, where Jo attended Centennial School and Jefferson High School. She was taking business courses in typing and shorthand at “Jeff” when she met Carl Seifert, an engineering student at Purdue University, who was from Milwaukee, WI. They were married April 6, 1953 and shortly afterward, he left for basic training. Jo remained living at home with her parents and working as a secretary at Haywood Printing in Lafayette while Carl served in the Army. Upon his discharge, they moved to Shorewood, WI, in the neighborhood where Carl grew up.
Jo adored her in-laws, Eleanor “Mama” and Charles “Pappy” Seifert. At that time, Jo worked as a secretary at Ladish Malting Company. After Eleanor died, the young couple moved into Carl’s family home to provide support for Pappy, who Carl also worked for in the family business. The couple had many friends through their work as well as Carl’s hobby of working on and racing sports cars. They often spent weekends at Elkhart Lake. One of Jo’s favorite stories from that time was when Carl let her drive his Austin Healey. She was new to driving and never got the car past first gear the whole way around the curvy course! She and Carl (along with Pappy) eventually moved to Mequon, WI, where she met lifelong friends, Mert and Betty Campbell, who were their nearest neighbors. Jo worked as the school secretary at Homestead High School where Mert was Principal. In 1960, after the birth of her daughter, Kathy, she chose to become a full-time homemaker. Sadly, she and Carl separated not long after the death of Pappy in 1961. They eventually divorced. The home they built in Mequon was at the end of a long gravel road, and Jo felt very isolated in the country—especially during long Wisconsin winters! In 1964, she and Kathy moved to Whitefish Bay where there were neighbors close by, lots of other families with children in the neighborhood, and a great school system—Jo really valued education and was determined that her daughter would go to college. The suburbs suited them so much better than the country living that Carl had craved. The Whitefish Bay years were filled with hard work, raising her daughter, and good times with dear friends from the neighborhood—especially the Kurensky family.
Jo was enormously proud of her work at some well-known Milwaukee businesses, most notably Schlitz and Oster Corp. Between these jobs, she was a secretary for Milwaukee entrepreneur, Michael Cudahy, at what was then known as Marquette Electronics. She took pride in being able to work well with demanding executives and was well-appreciated by all of her bosses, with whom she stayed in contact long after they and she retired.
Retirement was a blessing for Jo who took to it like a duck to water. So many things had to wait during her working life because she had been a single, working mother during a time when that was rare. By the time she retired, she had bought her beloved condo at Manchester Village in Glendale with a southern exposure and view of the pool. She loved having sunlight stream into her home, and after retiring, she could be home more during the day to enjoy it. How much she was home is hard to say, because once she retired, she dedicated herself to serving others in ways that working full time had never allowed.
After moving to Glendale, she joined a new church community, Blessed Trinity, where she met wonderful new friends who were dedicated to community outreach and social justice. She volunteered at the church, cooked/served food at the church’s meal program, and volunteered in a literacy program at the neighboring 35th Street School. Each week, she would tutor children to help them advance their reading skills. Over the course of the year, she developed a cherished relationship with each child. She also participated in adult religious education and served on the church board. Because Jo loved to drive, she often volunteered to take elder parishioners to medical appointments. She also volunteered for the local library, park system, and served as a building representative for the Manchester Village Owners Association.
Jo traveled during retirement. She visited friends and family in CA, FL, MN, and IN. She pursued exercise in retirement—water exercises with neighbors at the Manchester pool in summer and land exercise classes during the colder months. Another opportunity for travel came through one of her exercise instructors who had a business of facilitating bus tours for folks with disabilities. Jo attended a wonderful trip to Springfield, IL, as a chaperone on one of the tours. After reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Jo dreamed of visiting Savannah, GA, and she and Kathy traveled there together in 2003, a memorable trip for both of them.
Jo loved many things, people, and pets throughout her life. She was an avid reader, a devoted Catholic, a huge fan of big band music (many a Summerfest found Jo at the Miller Jazz Oasis listening to the likes of Maynard Ferguson and Buddy Rich), and a patron of the Arts in Milwaukee. She loved and supported the Milwaukee Ballet and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater Company, and she was a member of the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Milwaukee Public Museum for many years. She loved attending the many outdoor art and music festivals throughout Milwaukee and the ethnic festivals at Henry Maier Park. She especially enjoyed any performance featuring her daughter or her grandchildren. A highlight was grandson, Nathan’s, first ever performance at Summerfest in 2015.
Jo loved dogs, but rarely had one she could call her own. Her “grand-dog,” Jesse, was her most recent favorite. Jo cherished her friends, and she was a good friend to all. Most of all, Jo loved her family. She was dedicated to her parents and her daughter and son-in-law; she adored her grandsons and being “Nana Jo”.
Jo is survived by her daughter Kathy (Bob Pflughoeft) Seifert; grandsons, Nathan and Max Pflughoeft; and cousins, Joseph (Linda) Whinery and Blythe Whinery. She was preceded in death by her parents; her beloved aunt, Ghloe DeFord; dear cousins, Mary Alice (Don) Whinery and Robert (Nina) DeFord: and beloved, yellow lab “grand-dog,” Jesse..
A celebration of life will be scheduled at a later date—when hugging is again allowed!
Memorials can be directed to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Winona Area Hospice Services, or Guiding Eyes for the Blind.
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