Joanna Hall, age 92, died peacefully at home in Benton on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.
Throughout her life she expressed her love for family and friends through her sweet, kind spirit, her quick-to-laugh humor, her warm smile, and her twinkling blue eyes. She was grateful to all who helped her live her last days in her home, a happy place bursting with memories, with wonderful views of the creek and woods filled with creatures including a pair of barred owls.
Martha Joanna Edmondson was born in Carlisle on July 17, 1921, to rice farmer Joe Henry Edmondson and creative housewife Anna Martha Thompson, who were fondly known as Big Daddy and Big Mama. She grew up protected and guided by older siblings Joe Chambers and Inez Reece and played big sister to Rachel Cutler.
Rachel’s very tall beau, Bob Cutler, introduced her to his Army buddy, Oliver Wendell Hall Jr., whom he described as “just your size.” The connection worked. Joanna and Wendell were married after the morning church service on July 19, 1945. They "baby-boomed" two sons while Wendell attended law school at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, then happily settled in Benton.
Joanna taught first grade before marriage, then devoted herself to her lawyer husband and children. Ever creative, she was involved with a garden club, Cub Scouts, PTA, Band Boosters, and most of the kids in the neighborhood.
She and Wendell particularly enjoyed teaching Sunday School for 6-year-olds at First Baptist Church. She transformed her couples’ bridge club into an elite supper club comprised of life-long friends who laughed and talked and played a little bridge. She challenged and encouraged her children and insisted she loved their countless hours of piano practice. She was gentle and gracious, but remained confident of her independent point of view.
Joanna was a caregiver. As a young woman, she and sister Rachel took care of Big Mama after she suffered a series of strokes. Much later, when Big Daddy battled cancer, she drove daily from Benton to Lonoke for months to tend to his every need.
She brought joy to many through her visits on behalf of the Sunshine Group at the church. She was the primary caregiver of her husband during his decline 10 years ago. They were a loving, hand-holding couple married for almost 60 years. And through her own decline, she blessed all around her with her love and kindness, her humor, and her peaceful acceptance.
Joanna is survived by her firstborn son, O. Wendell Hall III, MD, of Little Rock and his partner, John Helmkamp; a son, Thom Hall of Little Rock; a granddaughter, Cedar Hall of Hot Springs; a grandson, Alan Ostner of Fayetteville and his wife Mollie and their children, Reed and Phoebe; a former daughter-in-law, Arden Kate of Fayetteville; the extended family of her siblings’ children and grandchildren; some wonderful friends and neighbors; the caregiving team of Mike Gross, Alene Norwood and Rachel Laird of Elder Independence; and the Hospice team from Saline Memorial Hospital found through the guidance of Dr. Jerry Dixon.
Joanna’s giving spirit lives on through her donation of her body to the Genesis Legacy of Life program for the advancement of science through the Medical Education and Research Institute in Memphis, Tenn. (http://www.genesislegacy.org.)
The family will receive loved ones and friends at a visitation/celebration of Joanna’s long and rich life from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, June 16, at Ashby Funeral Home in Benton.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to UAMS, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 W. Markham, Little Rock, AR 72205 http://www.uams.edu; Arkansas Arts Center, P.O. Box 2137, Little Rock, AR 72203 http://www.arkarts.com; or a charity of choice.
Online guest book: www.ashbyfuneralhome.com.