Life Story / Obituary
As far back as she could remember, Joan’s fond intention was simply “to be good.” And she succeeded.
Joan Elaine (Hohendorf) Jones left this world on Thursday, April 9, 2020, at the age of 88. The goodness that characterized her, however, lives on in her example and her humble service to others.
Joan was born Jan. 12, 1932, in the Detroit area to Arthur and Clara (Brooks) Hohendorf. She remembered the Great Depression as a little girl, when her father came home from work without a paycheck and her mother sobbed inconsolably. But they prevailed through this trying period and came out stronger for it. The Hohendorf children were Harold, Shirley, Joan and Caryl. As the Second World War raged, Joan passed the days in great trepidation as her dear brother entered the military and shipped out overseas. Many prayers ascended on Harold’s behalf until his safe return at the war’s end.
One cherished childhood memory involves a lady in an adjacent house who would sometimes lower a bucket of candy from her upstairs window into the backyard for little Joan. Those acts of kindness stayed with her for life.
The family moved to Grand Rapids, MI, when Joan was six. She would spend the rest of her life there. The relative proximity of Lake Michigan was a treat for Joan, as she and her dad would sometimes go early-morning perch fishing on the pier.
Joan was academically astute, graduating Mount Mercy Academy as the salutatorian. Her years at the Catholic, all-girl high school prompted her to consider becoming a nun. That would change, soon.
After getting her diploma, Joan landed a secretarial job at the Grand Rapids Herald newspaper so she could go shopping during lunch hours with a friend who also worked downtown. It was at the Herald that she met a young man, a co-worker fresh out of the U.S. Marine Corps. “A perfect specimen,” as Joan would later refer to her husband, James H. Jones. She was taken by his wavy hair, blue eyes and confident demeanor. One day, Jim looked over Joan’s shoulder as she typed, and he uttered his first words to her: “You misspelled ‘millinery.’” Not an auspicious beginning, but the attraction grew and they began dating.
The couple married on Sept. 6, 1952, at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, where they were members most of their lives.
Joan and Jim had a joyous marriage, starting their lives together in an apartment on Winchester Place NE. Soon, they bought a house on Benjamin Avenue NE, where they remained until 1966. From there, they moved to their spacious, longtime residence on Youell Avenue SE across from Wilcox Park. In their senior years, Joan and Jim relocated to a house on Chamberlain Avenue SE, then to Covenant Living of the Great Lakes.
They raised six children: Steven Michael, James Daniel, Brian Thomas, David Allen, Richard Anthony and Kathleen Marie.
Music and theater were areas of enduring interest for both Joan and Jim. They participated in many theatrical productions, including musicals with Grand Rapids Civic Theater and the St. Thomas Theatercrafters. Blessed with a lovely soprano voice, she sang in the Grand Rapids Symphonic Choir and formed vocal groups with friends, performing at such venues as the annual Festival of the Arts. She sang often at church services and weddings.
Joan was a first-rate cook who cherished family visits. At the break of dawn, she was always up cooking and preparing for Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays. During the summer, she often packed picnic lunches for family excursions to Lake Michigan, a favorite family activity.
She was especially close to her high school friend, the late Betty Faranski (the one who encouraged Joan to get the Herald job so they could shop together). On their calendar every year was an outing to imbibe a Manhattan, a tradition that lasted into their twilight years.
Both Joan and Jim adored their grandchildren and went to elaborate lengths to amuse them. For example, they turned their home into “Tulip Terrace” for a day, a French restaurant with Joan as head chef and Jim as maître d’ (complete with a drawn-on mustache and French accent). The grandchildren, many of whom are now adults, remember such times warmly.
Everyone who knew Joan can testify to her selfless, sacrificial spirit. She cared tirelessly for her husband during his many years of poor health, still finding time to serve the needs of her aged mother and mother-in-law. Ever a devout Roman Catholic, Joan exuded piety, kindness and a cheerful disposition, even during times of great difficulty.
Her wonderful sense of humor endured up until the final weeks of her life. Joan kept the staffers at Covenant Living laughing, with several of them commenting on what an absolute joy she was.
No stranger to hardship, Joan survived both cancer and a massive heart attack. On her 70th birthday, she wrote a poem that included these lines, which reflect her faith and hope:
A final thought – if dreams come true, I wish with all my might
That every one of us stays true, good servants in God’s sight
To do His will and seek His face in all things that will be
And join together for all time in blessed eternity.
She was a loving wife, mother and grandmother, loved by all.
Joan is survived by her sister, Caryl (Dominic) Alessi of Clarkston, MI, and by six children: Steven Michael (Heidi) Jones of Palm Bay, FL; James Daniel (Carol Ireton-Jones) Jones of Carrollton, TX; Brian Thomas (Janine) Jones of Grand Rapids; David Allen Jones (Merry Marter) of Grand Rapids; Richard Anthony (Maureen) Jones of Garner, NC; and Kathleen Jones (Ian LeVine) of Grand Rapids and Lansing, MI. She leaves behind 22 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, along with many nieces and nephews.
She is preceded in death by Jim, her husband of 61 years; her parents, Arthur and Clara Hohendorf; her brother, Harold Hohendorf; and a sister, Shirley Brown.
Heritage Life Story Funeral Home is handling arrangements. Because of the pandemic outbreak and lockdown, there will be no funeral service in the immediate future. The family will plan a memorial once the lockdown ends.
In lieu of flowers, friends and relatives of Joan are encouraged to make a donation to Hospice of Holland.