In loving memory of Joanne Lepp
(June 30, 1927-August 8, 2021)

Josephine, A Love Story

There once was a girl named Josephine. As all children are, she was born beautiful…so much so that she outshined the day in June she came into this world. As life went on she was fortunate to have a sister, Mary, join in on the incredible journey and then came baby Santina, aka Sandy.

Josephine never like her name and never thought she was pretty so she changed what she could and became Josie, and then after she met the love of her life at age 17, she married Joe and she became just Jo. She went on to travel throughout the States because of Joe’s Marine Corps career and even ended up living in Paris which opened her up to a world of fashion and style and a different culture from where she started as Josephine. She always had her own special style, was always the belle of every Marine Corps ball. Then she really hit her stride in the City of Lights.

She had four children-Nancy, Kathy, Robin and Brad. She loved them fiercely. She threw great birthday parties. She was a good wife, packing entire households (maybe nine or ten times) following Joe’s career. She had a very successful career herself as a real estate agent, transitioning to Joanne, as her children went on their own life paths. She was deep and complicated. She worked hard and she faced hardships and challenges as all of us do, but somehow she always landed on her feet. She bought her own home after parting ways with Joe but never forgot their long love. She was courted by a few suitors, but never went back to a permanent union.

As she aged and retired, she began to write poetry like crazy and filled volumes with her stored up words that flowed like a busy river. She ended up living in Fredericksburg, VA in an independent living environment. She made good friends and rolled out the Canasta cards and Mahjong tiles. She helped write plays and performed in skits, helped arrange special events and settled into Joanne beautifully. She was an influencer. She relished (and prepared endlessly including her wardrobe) attending family gatherings with her children and their spouses Brooks, Dave, Blaine and Krista. All cared for her in their own way.
She was always bursting with new stories about her grandchildren, Adam, Cara, Lauren, Grace, Nick and Kameryn, all of whom could have their own book of accolades if she had had the time to write. She loved her grandchildren’s husbands, Nick and Matt and Adam’s wife Stacy. She took great pleasure in sharing with her cousins, Joan and Marion and loved their children as well.

And how she loved the babies, her great grandchildren, Hudson, Mia, Wyatt, Katelyn and Bennett. She loved her nieces Linda and Donna, Leslie, Wendy Adel, MaryBeth, Karen, Debbie, Dawn and Raeanne and nephews Joe (Buddy), Jackie and Danny, Rusty and Chris and all of her husband’s cousins, including the ten Nunziato children and those who called her Aunt Jo, including Mary, Carol and Stanley, Patty and Marilyn.

At one point in my last visit with her in Fredericksburg, she began to describe the great ship we traveled on to France. She was quite lucid recounting a visa issue and I felt like she was reliving that journey during that visit. And then she looked at me and asked , “Where is my husband?” I explained that he had gone on before her but she did not have to worry because he was preparing a place for her that would not require any packing or heavy lifting. She gave me a Joanne look.

Today I am reminded of a poem by Henry Van Dyke about the white sails of a beautiful ship heading toward the ocean where the sky meets the blue water. The poem ends…And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,” there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!” And that is dying.

At the beginning of this glorious day my beautiful mother has gone home to her mother and father Adelaide and Francis Dioguardi, her baby sister Sandy and sister Mary, both of whom she loved dearly. She is reunited with her dear sister in laws Ronnie and Betty and her brother in laws Don and Jack, George and Felix and so many friends from many chapters in her long life. Of course my happy uncomplicated grandparents (my father Joe’s parents, Stella and George Lepp) will be setting the table with good food and an abundance of love.

So now as Brad and Robin and Kathy and I whisper in her ear, go on mom, we are all fine. We will continue to make you proud. You turned out good children who love and care for each other and those who may need our help. I love and respect you, now and forever. Thank you for giving me such an incredible life.
Wait…just a minute Jo, I see your Joe coming for you with all of those who love you and can’t wait to see you home. Godspeed. Nan