JoAn Isbell

Passed 07/08/2021


Obituary For JoAn Isbell

JoAn Isbell, daughter of Stuart and Clara Simmermacher, Cleveland, Ohio, finally faded away from Alzheimer’s disease in St. Louis, MO, on July 8th, 2021. She is survived by her sisters, Gay Long of Milford, MI, and Margie Adams of Houston, TX.

I met JoAn over coffee at the student union of Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in December of 1960. We were married in 1964. Mostly we stayed in schools together, as students and as teachers. JoAn earned her Master’s in journalism from Southern Illinois University and joined the publications team at The University of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette, while I taught speech and theatre. While there she took courses in horticulture and eventually opened her own greenhouse, “Contrary Mary’s.” Then, when Cornell University announced they were looking for someone with journalism and horticultural experience to head up the publications program at their botanical gardens, JoAn moved us to Ithaca. There we spent six years, exploring Gorges and Buddhism. But then, to get warm, we moved to Arizona. JoAn obtained another Master’s degree from Arizona State University and became a member of the Communications Division of Central Arizona College. She taught reading and writing to underprepared students and she taught technical writing to folks in the Associates Degree program. We retired from CAC in 2005 and went “home” to Southern Illinois. In 2012, when JoAn was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, we moved to St. Louis to be closer to care. We just celebrated our 57th anniversary. JoAn is 80 years old.

JoAn loved her kitchen, her dogs, her photography, and, most of all, her friends: The Buchheits, The Dorris’, Brite, Mike and Sheri, Kristen, Glenn and Jeff, and her colleagues at Cornell and CAC.

I’d like to share a couple of journal entries she wrote in 1997 during a Buddhist retreat atop a Zen mountain south of Palm Springs:


Waking up in this Woodland cocoon I find no butterfly Just me


The bell reverberates Through sixty-two heartbeats And through all My pores.


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  • 07/12/2021

    May you know peace. She was really something, a force. -Susan Bing Hines

  • 07/10/2021

    The love of JoAn and Tom was a sight to behold. They made a wonderful loving and kind relationship look so good. Intelligent, kind, caring and compassionate. That was JoAn. Such a beautiful spirit and a blessing for us all. She will be missed. I am here to lend an ear and a hand to Tom in this final journey. We became friends and supporters when our spouses were diagnosed and we became a family in our Alzheimer's support group. Another link in our circle has been broken. Sending hugs and love to your both in this journey. It is not goodbye just we will see you again.

  • 07/10/2021

  • 07/10/2021

    I easily recall Joan scooting down the stairs of the CAC library, darting past the circulation desk, and scurring to class in the 500 section of the building. She had been upstairs tutoring and was on her way to class to teach yet more students... to gently, wisely guide them . Clearly, that was her mission. Her sense of caring and dedication remain with me still. How blessed you two were to have found each other. What wonderful memories you two created. Peace, my friend, Peace. Janet Weir

  • 07/09/2021

    JoAn was such a kind person, she loved her family, her students. I can't think of a more perfect couple than JoAn and Tom. While we have not seen each other in years, keeping you both in my thoughts and prayers. With deepest sympathy, warmest love and admiration. Terry Calaway.

  • 07/09/2021

    JoAn loved Tom, and Tom loed JoAn. It was such a wonderful thing to witness two people respected each other so thoroughly. I was only an amusing bystander, being a student, but I became friends with them both. I loved them, always will. Somewhere, from the astral trail, JoAn will still be in our presence; the dimensions that slip in and out. Tom, if only I could hold your hand right now. Please know I am also with you in spirit. Live, Lauren, the Silver Surfer

  • 07/09/2021

    I knew JoAn when she and Tom worked at CAC. She was one of my favorite people there, a smart, kind, beautiful person for whom I had the highest respect and affection. She touched many students' lives -- and, well, pretty much everyone who was lucky enough to cross paths with her. I still have one of the plants she gave me when they moved to Illinois so many years ago. I think of her every time I water it. She was a very special person. Her death leaves a void in many lives. -- Janell Alewyn

  • 07/09/2021

    Joan was such a beautiful person. Tom,, I know she felt your love and devotion through it all. Peace Joannie, peace.

  • 07/09/2021

    Such wonderful memories of working together at CAC. Home cooked meals, lovely pets, smart conversation. Joan was a marvelous professor—one of the best. Love from Terri, Dennis, and Toffee

  • 07/09/2021

    I had the honor and privilege of living next door to the Isbells while they were in Arizona. I absolutely adored JoAn. She was kind, tender, smart and fierce. Her house was beautiful and her gardens delightful. A gracious hostess with a forever open door. I'll bet Bud the Wonder Cat is having a great time with her now. Rest in peace my darling friend! Your work on this plain is done because you truly taught and lived unconditional love!

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