Joanne’s beginnings were humble. She was born to the parents of Joseph Bischof and Anna (Pani) on Dec. 28, 1932, both direct immigrants from Austria. She was the second oldest of six children, named after her parents (Joe-Anna) Joanna, but later changed to Joanne by the school nuns. Growing up, she dutifully looked after and cared for her younger siblings, helping prepare her for a life ahead of serving others. She was raised a devout catholic, where faith was a key cornerstone of her life. As a young girl, she worked many manual labor jobs forging her character, where none was beneath her and she did so with a smile on her face determined to make her life better. She eventually attended Sacred Heart High School and went on to the Columbus Hospital School of Nursing to become a Registered Nurse. It wasn’t easy though, for the money she diligently saved through all those years of hard work and her passion of caring for others, she presented it to the Columbus Hospital nuns for the cost of education. It was only enough for a down payment for the full price of tuition. Out of compassion, the head nun offered her a job to stay on as a hospital nurse after she graduated for 5yr to pay off her debt. As a beautiful young nurse, she had many suitors, mostly doctors, but she met the love of her life while on a social outing. Donald Wojtyla was a young handsome man who captured her heart, and they were later married on June 28, 1958. She lived with him in Park Ridge, IL. as his devoted wife, just as she was to her life in Christ.
She was passionate in life. She served as a Nurse Supervisor at Columbus Hospital in Chicago. Going above and beyond the call of duty, she arrived early each morning to personally make the rounds with all patients on the floor to brief the doctors for when they arrived. She maintained her Nursing Certification until 2012. She so admired and looked up to Mother Cabrini, the Saint who founded the hospital where she worked in Chicago. One of her favorite stories was of the Blessed Mother’s appearance at Fatima. She was quite the avid reader for romance novels, newspapers, and medical journals. She loved to travel around the US and the world with family and friends, with a penchant for cruising, for she went on 32 of them. Her and Don loved to dance the foxtrot, waltz, tango, and cha-cha on dinner outings with their many friends. They became club members of the 25 year Marriage Club, where they enjoyed dining and mingling with many similar couples. They had long standing theater tickets at Drury Lane, where they always had extra tickets for family and friends. On most weekends during the summer, Don & Joanne could often be found at Fox Lake hosting friends and family for dinner, boating, and entertaining. They had many great life-long friendships with the Fesus’s, Robert’s, Wilkin’s, Gray’s, Menke’s and many others to name a few. Any out-of-town relative who came to visit, always had the best of times while under her care. This exemplified her compassion and servitude for those she so cared for.
Don and Joanne had two cherished children, Lon and Valerie. She put aside her career to raise her family, always putting their needs above her own. Among all the things she did for her children, this was the most precious gift of all; she loved her husband deeply. She was a dependable, caring, loving, supporting, understanding, and a dedicated mother. She encouraged Lon for his affinity of herpetology, even when his pet python escaped in the house, only to be found weeks later after it bite her on the toe as it hid under the couch. With Valerie, she not only had a daughter, but also a best friend, talking for hours on end, discussing life, teaching, advising, counseling, and supporting. She imparted upon her children the importance of faith, the power of prayer, and to always trust in god.
Her family tree blossomed as her children married and had many grandchildren, Megan (Lon) with Ethan, Trevor, Dylan and Claire and Matthew (Valerie) with Brooke, Grace, Paige, and Reese. She was the doting Grandma, hosting most holiday gatherings and showering her affection. Her generous gifts were legendary with wonderful memories of Christmases to the excess. For Don and Joanne’s 50th wedding anniversary, they took their children’s families on vacation to Disney World, where lifelong memories were had by all. They insisted on extended family gatherings for birthdays and all of life’s milestones. Her love and affection continued to radiate when Lon introduced Filomena to the family.
Joanne was not without her hardships. Growing up in the depression era was tough, where food was scarce, sleeping in a common area without her own bedroom, and she seldom saw her father who worked a night job at his uncle's bakery supporting the family, while her mother helped raise the children. Her grace was above reproach with sometimes difficult in-laws, yet her happy go lucky disposition was an example for all to see. Her finances were lean in the early years when her husband sacrificed to start his own business while she helped-out as a bookkeeper and later became a stay-at-home mom when the kids were born. In her later years, her servitude with taking care of her mother-in-law in advanced age and Don’s battle with cancer took its toll on her, but she did so dutifully.
“Well done, my good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21). May she forever rest in peace, having done a life of the lord’s work, joining her husband in coming home! She is preceded in death by her husband Don, mother Anna, father Joseph, and brother Kenneth. She is survived by her two children, eight grandchildren, sister Florence (Ed) Benoit, and brothers Joe (Anna), Ron, and Thomas (Eileen) Bischof. Rest in peace Joanne!
Visitation will only be held for the family and close friends. Please join them for Mass, interment and luncheon.
Luncheon will be immediately following the interment and will be held at Ki's Steak & Seafood Restaurant in Glendale Heights.
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