Although I was not born when my aunt was alive I have heard many stories about her throughout the years. I feel like I know her even though I never met her. I was given her name as my middle name in memory of her. The stories about her outgoing personality and loving ways remind me of myself. I wish that she had not been taken away so soon so that I could have gotten to know her and love her.
-- (Theresa LaMontagne, Niece)
Joan Ann was the last of six children born to my parents, Ernest, and Ida. As she and I were only a year or so apart, we were extremely close. Before we moved to the OLA parish, we lived on the 500 block of North Albany Ave, and attended class at St. Matthew School. When Joanie and I were not getting into mischief, we could be found making mud pies and cakes, and various other concoctions mixed with sugar, stolen from the kitchen table. When mud and sugar supplies ran low, she and I would dance to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Next to our house was our beloved empty lot, in the summer it was our “Sands of Iwo Jima”, and the site of the “Little Big Horn” massacre. When torrential rains threatened our lot, she and I would build a boat and sail the Caribbean in search of buried treasure.
On hot summer nights, we drowned our thirst with Kool-Aid, and polluted the skies with the fires from our “late night” weenie roasts. One of our favorite games after sunset was “Frankenstein.” My brother Arthur, bigger than the others, won the title role. Joanie, it seems, always managed to get caught by the “monster” and could be heard kicking and screaming into the darkness.
Although the steaming, mosquito-infested jungles of Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and Saipan had defined us boys as Marines, nothing could have prepared us for Okinawa. As relentless artillery barrages pounded our positions, and countless Banzai attacks created unimaginable carnage, Joanie and her friends were drafted into the nurses corps. Brought to the front and exposed to some of the most bloody and vicious battles on the island they held their own. Running from position to position, the new recruits bravely tended to the wounded and dying: “No, no, no, no water, you’ve got a very bad belly wound, just lie still”. She was so cute and efficient with her Red Cross armband, fashioned with our older sister’s nail polish. It would just bowl you over in laughter watching her perform her duties.
Once when her position fell to the enemy, Joanie protested being shot: “Bobby said that you can’t shoot the nurses, so I’m not dead”. So vehement were her protests, they decided instead to just take her prisoner. “You’re not supposed to shoot girls”, she said as they led her away. One of my fondest memories of her occurred on a Saturday shopping trek to Madison and Crawford. Stopping for refreshments at the corner Walgreen’s lunch counter, Joanie announced to the world “ Look Mommy, cups with handles on them!” Her sweet, and loving innocence will be forever, missed. The void she left can never be filled.
-- (Robert Chiappetta, Brother)
Joanne and I were brief friends. We lived on the same block on Ridgeway. Her house was on the corner, while mine was about 6 houses south. I attended her 10th birthday party in August of that year and although we attended different schools, I at Ryerson and she at OLA, our paths crossed and we became playmates. I will never forget December 1, 1958. My mother had to work overtime that night at N.Shure, a large catalog house located several blocks away on Pulaski. I had known about the fire since early afternoon and that night my grandmother and I left our house to meet my mother and walk her home. I encountered Joanne's brother, Bob, shortly after leaving my house and asked whether Joanne was home. He told me they had not found her yet. I did not learn until very recently what actually happened to her, but I have never forgotten her. Her death has left an indelible mark upon my heart and I have thought about her so often during these 50 years.
-- (Gayl A. Liebman, Friend)
My dear pretty little Auntie, whose smile was snuffed when I was only three years old; whose horrific story was kept secret from my mother in labor; whose death coincided with my brother's birth; whose light gave my grandma such joy; whose soul later brought my brother comfort; whose tragic demise stunned and broke all our hearts and shredded a family; whose precious memory we all keep close; and whose lovely image was our icon of sweet innocence and daughterly devotion, will forever be missed.
Rest in peace, Joanie.
-- (Donna Rose Torf (nee Lupo), Niece)