Alwin, Joann Kerley-June 11, 2012
JoAnn Kerley Robinson Alwin departed this earth, Monday, June 1, 2012 to spend the rest of eternity with the man she knew she loved from the very first day she met him on a blind date, “her life, her everything”, her husband, Wally.
JoAnn Kerley Robinson was born June 3, 1919 at home in Milwaukee on a day her mother liked to recall as, “absolutely the most saffron colored yellow one could ever see.” She was the second child of four children born to Dr. James and Lucille Robinson. Dr. Robinson was a dentist in Milwaukee for 46 years and once ran for governor of the state. Lucille, an accomplished pianist and soloist with the Milwaukee Opera Chorus, encouraged JoAnn to take dance and singing lessons. By the time she was three years old, JoAnn was singing and dancing on the stage.
JoAnn attended elementary school in Milwaukee and graduated from Holy Angels Academy in 1937. She then enrolled at Marquette University where she majored in journalism. From 1939 to 1941, JoAnn worked as a successful free lance journalist, compiling a column which she sold to independent newspapers. Her work often took her to Hollywood where she met and interviewed many of the glamorous filmstars of that era.
JoAnn met Walter while he was home on Christmas Vacation from Harvard University. She liked to recount the story of her first date, how Wally took her to supper but between the two of them they only had enough money to buy one sandwich which they were going to share.
Somehow, Wally ate the entire sandwich and she was left with nothing.
Despite this, she fell in love on their first date and she was certain that he was the man she wanted to marry and spend the rest of her life with. The very next day, on the second date, Wally asked JoAnn for her hand by saying “I can’t promise your life will be easy, Baby. I only promise you it will never be uneventful or boring.” JoAnn spent the next 68 years with Wally finding out just how true that was going to be. Once or twice, she recalled to her grown children, she found herself on her knees asking God to, “Please make my life a bit less eventful.” Wally died in November of 2009. Although parted by distance, they have remained together forever in JoAnn’s heart.
JoAnn worked as a socialworker with the Kenosha Co. of Social Services and later with the Walworth Co. Social Services. A love of teaching and children led JoAnn back to school to earn her teaching degree in education from the UW-Whitewater and her Masters Degree in Guidance Counseling from UW-Stout. As a returning student, JoAnn graduated with honors in education, appearing on the Dean’s List every semester she was enrolled in college. JoAnn was elected to the National Honor Society in Education and the International Honor Society in History.
She worked as a teacher in Watertown before moving to Wausau because of a new job opportunity for Wally. JoAnn spent some time teaching at a parochial school there until she accepted a position as teacher and counselor at Lincoln Hills School, a juvenile detention center in central Wisconsin. There she earned the love and respect of her students while teaching them the works of Shakespeare and occasionally challenging some of “her boys” to an arm wrestling contest, which she always won, just to remind them who was in charge of the classroom.
JoAnn spent 9½ years at Lincoln Hills. At the age of 70, she accepted a position as a home-based Headstart teacher in Marathon County. When she turned 77, JoAnn retired from teaching, a decision she often regretted. John Steinbeck wrote, “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” JoAnn was one of the few truly great teachers.
JoAnn embraced her role as the mother of 16 and considered her children “as gifts from God.” A prolific writer, she authored a family autobiography, “International Moorings,” in which she writes about her life as a wife and mother and “A Horse for Gabrielle.” JoAnn also wrote and illustrated children’s books and has had numerous poems published. Her most beloved poem, “To My Child’s Teacher,” is frequently read during teacher inservice programs at the start of the school year. Also, JoAnn often lectured for various audiences about the “virtues” of a large family. Many of her children have followed the footsteps of JoAnn, entering into fields of service to others.
JoAnn is survived by her brother, Dr. James Robinson II of Maryland; sons, Craig (Patty), Merrill, Lance (Nancy), Baraboo, Brent, Hebron, and Dr. Sean Alwin (Laura), Fort Atkinson; daughters, Gabrielle Alwin, Whitewater, Penelope (Jim) Kleinhans, Whitewater, Pamela Fullerton, Hamburg, Deborah (Roy) Rockwell, Whitewater, Jill Simmons, Whitewater, April Alwin, Whitewater, and Jeanine Davis, Williamston, MI, foster children Elaine Robinson, Madison, WI., and Dennis and Lee Sohns, 42 grandchildren, 60 great-grandchildren, 6 great-great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews.
JoAnn was preceded in death by her parents; her beloved husband, Wally; her eldest son, Scott; and infant son; her brother, Harry Robinson; her sister, Peggy Robinson Bush, and her grandson, Tyrone Kleinhans.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, June 15, at First English Church, Whitewater, the Rev. Steve Hanson officiating.
Visitation will be from 9:30 until time of service. Internment will take place in Cold Spring Cemetery in the Town of Cold Spring.
Nitardy Funeral Home, Whitewater, is assisting the family.
The family would appreciate memorials given to the Scott Alwin Scholarship Fund at Concordia University, Milwaukee.
“It’s just a shame that life is coming is to an end so soon. I have hundreds of books to read, beautiful new grandchildren to meet, languages I want to learn, a new shape to attain, hours of delicious music to absorb and years of love, laughter and even tears I want to experience.” JoAnn Alwin