Posted by: deadmousediaries | July 11, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Jo – a reflection from Mitchell Kyd

Quiet and demure. Uncertain, restrained and halting. No, not our Jo. She was no Caspar Milquetoast. Boundless, joyous spitfire. Yeah, that’s closer. She left us Wednesday for a higher plane but she’s not gone, only watching, loving and protecting with a broader view.

She was 80-and-a-couple on her last birthday; you may have mistaken her for 60. She was a dancer, a doer, a gardener, a looker, a lighthouse and a rock. Her heart was big and true and open and she loved her family with the courage and fierce tenacity of a wolverine protecting her cubs. Yes, Jo as a wolverine, I can see it.  There is nothing scarier than an angry mom, a wolverine mom–unless it’s a wolverine grandmother. The closer I get to my own ubiquitous senior discount, the more I realize I could only hope to be that full of piss and vinegar –at any age.

When her cancer got a name just one month ago, she called him out for the wormy coward that he really is. She refused to do his ugly dance but chose instead to exit, full of grace, leaving him a robber with an empty sack. She packed up her beauty, her dignity, her sense of joy and left him confused and chagrined at how little power a villain really had to change her. That took guts and that’s what she was made of: guts and goodness and purpose and heart and might and faith and forgiveness.

Jo created a presence that commanded respect, feminine without being fussy, compelling without a big stick. She didn’t need to pull on a power suit or slink to a crass vocabulary for you to know she meant business. She walked among us in her denim skirts and cotton blouses and could cluck us into compliance by simply crossing her arms, pouting that lower lip and uttering: “Oh, for goodness sakes!”

She rewarded us with her laughter and her hugs. My brain has an album full of those amazing moments, some that came through happenstance and spontaneity, others that were warm and predictable because she called us to her table. My favorites are those when we gathered and joined hands for Family Circle.

Jo lived in a world of possibilities. A calendar couldn’t confine her because her life was gauged by the moments – not the years- that she chose to fill helping others. Cooking, donating, fund-raising, visiting, reading, serving: her now expanded until it became her past and created an entire lifetime of giving back.

If you feel a tremor in the Force this Chambersfest, it will no doubt be Jo Gearhart bustling along the sidewalks again with a basket on her arm or brochures in her hand as she works the crowd to support the Heritage Center, the Council for the Arts, Luther Ridge, her church – or any one of a dozen organizations where she shared her time. If you think you see her, don’t weigh her down with your sadness.  She left the world a better place but still has work to do.

Jo leaves behind a family and a thousand friends who will struggle to reinvent their lives without her. If we’ve been watching and learning as she had hoped, she has already taught us how to do that: with strength and courage, laughter and grace, always rising to the light and always moving forward, one simple moment at a time. Our hard work now is to let her go.

Thank you for all these gifts and more, Jo.  We will always love you.

2010 Mitchell Kyd



  1. Yvonne,

    You are amazing. We are still talking about the tribute you wrote for my grandmother. thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    I love you!

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