JoAnn J. Bender was born on July 22, 1931, the daughter of Dale and Mildred (Richardson) Willard. She graduated from Manchester High School after which her family relocated to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. JoAnn was united in marriage to Dean H. Bender on December 1, 1956. He preceded her in death in August of 2013 following nearly 57 years of marriage together.
JoAnn worked for many years as a receptionist for Dr. Manville, an eye doctor, in Cedar Rapids. She worked as a fulltime stay-at-home mother after her only child’s birth. Her son, Jeff, referred to her as “The greatest Mom ever”. Later in life JoAnn was very excited to become a grandmother of two.
JoAnn was a longtime parishioner of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Marion, Iowa, where she was a money counter and enjoyed her close friendships. She spent time as a Den Mother for her son’s Cub Scout Troop. Dean and Jeff fell in love with Scouting and became heavily involved for many years.
JoAnn really enjoyed being outside, especially tending to her yard, garden and growing ferns and jade plants. She always kept her house immaculate and loved to cook. Her husband’s favorite meal was liver and onions. As an elementary schooler, when Jeff walked in the house and smelled what was cooking, he knew he would probably be going to bed hungry. Back in those days it was “this is what’s for dinner”.
In 1979 the family relocated to Southern California following Dean’s promotion. JoAnn missed Iowa and being able to talk with neighbors over a chain link fence. In California the yards were surrounded by cement walls. At her behest the family relocated back to Marion, Iowa in 1983. After Dean’s death in 2013, JoAnn moved to Davenport to live with her son until it became necessary for her to move into Ridgecrest Village care facility in Davenport.
Survivors include her son, Jeff, Davenport, and grandchildren, Jacob, Davenport, and Rylie, Cedar Rapids.
In addition to her husband, she was preceded in death by her parents.