Joann Elizabeth Gillespie, age 87, of Chatfield, Minn. passed away at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester, Minn., and was welcomed with open arms into Heaven on April 27, 2023.
Joann was born on March 2, 1936, to Fred and Lucy (Farmer) Madison in Marengo, Iowa. She graduated as salutatorian from the class of 1954 in Goldfield, Iowa.
On August 15, 1954, she married Howard Clark Gillespie. They started their married life as farmers near Renwick, Iowa. Their love of farming eventually led them to Preston, Minn., in 1958, where they bought their first farm. Joann loved farm life – she drove tractor, hauled grain in trucks, baled hay, fed calves, and always kept a large garden.
Farm life was busy but she also found time for other community activities, including church, 4-H, homemakers, Community Ed classes, school board, PTA, among others.
After her husband passed away in 2004, she left the farm and moved to Chatfield, Minn. There she found a whole new network of people and activities to enjoy including book clubs, neighborhood gatherings, volunteering at the nursing home, delivering for Meals on Wheels, and frequently helped people needing transportation to appointments.
She always felt the greatest joy in her life was raising and supporting her five children. Later in life, she delighted in spending time with grandchildren and attending their school and 4-H activities.
Joann was optimistic about life. No matter what obstacles she encountered, she faced it with a positive attitude and hope. Her smile and laugh blessed everyone she met. Laughter was her middle name. She embraced and accepted all people with kindness and calmness. Indeed, she was “Grandma Jo” to everyone! She will be dearly missed by the many lives she touched.
She loved baking – in truth, we all loved her cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, and other baked goodies.
She liked to live in the moment. The beautiful world that God created constantly amazed and delighted her.
Travel formed a major part of her life, especially in the years after Howard passed away. Together with her two sisters as well as others, she visited more than 20 countries. Even in her last weeks she was happily planning yet another trip to Alaska.
Joann is survived by three siblings, Fred Madison, Eagle Grove, Iowa, Marian Freeman, Plattsburg, Mo., and Donnarae Cranston, Grundy Center, Iowa; sister-in-law Judi Squiers, Des Moines, Iowa; children Jeff (Jacki) Gillespie, Fountain, Minn., Paul (Pamela) Gillespie, Iowa City, Iowa, Sherry (Gary) Hareldson Rushford, Minn., Kent (Kelli) Gillespie, Chatfield, Minn., and Kirk (Gena Bilden) Gillespie, Mounds View, Minn.; grandchildren Dawn (Nathan) Bernau, Ashley (John) Grant, Aaron (Amanda) Gillespie, Dane Gillespie, Caitlyn Gillespie, Bonnie Gillespie, Sarah Gillespie, Laura (Alice) Blackbriar, Matt (Becca Morales) Hareldson, Jenna (Jordan) Redalen, Kayli (Aaron) Zezulka, Shaelyn Hareldson, Jacob Gillespie (Macy Pederson), Abbi Gillespie, and Sam Gillespie; 13 great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Howard, her brother James Madison, her sisters Arlene Danskin, Margaret Risdon, and Berniece Mohr.
Funeral service for Joann took place at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, at Chatfield United Methodist Church, with Pastor Deanna Woodward officiating. Visitation was held 5-7 p.m. on Monday May 1, 2023, at the church and one hour before the service on Tuesday.
Riley Funeral Home & Cremation Service assisted the Gillespie family with arrangements. Online condolences are welcome at rileyfuneralhomes.com
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials be given to the Chatfield Public Library or Fountain United Methodist Church.