Born in River Rouge Michigan the younger twin daughter of Fred Bilak (Ukrainian-Carpathian Mountains) and Filomena Halat (Polish from the village of Bulowice).
Her mother died when Jo Ann was only five years old.
She worked at Fort Wayne Detroit during WWII and once shipped hubcaps to General MacArthur. She once told me that she didn’t like when the Italian prisoners of wars housed there whistled at her.
Married later than most women in her time to widower and father of 4 children Edward Reno 7 Oct 1950. The couple met through Edward’s sister-in-law whom Jo Ann knew.
Gave birth to 10 children in 17 years beginning at the age of 28 through the age of nearly 45.
She chose my birthday of 1 October because she wanted a baby for every month of the year and needed an October baby.
Hated to cook but enjoyed baking pies (I favored the cherry and lemon meringue) and her famous Chocolate Crinkle and Christmas Cookies.
Awoke every day between 4 and 5 AM to do the laundry. Every time I do a load, I think of her. She used a washboard and darned socks. Nobody does that anymore.
She wrote letters with dedication and more thank you notes than anyone in the history of the world. As a young boy before I knew how to read or write I was mesmerized by the squiggly lines of her handwriting and tried to imitate her.
She managed to make sure the $20 birthday cash always showed up on the day of your birthday or pretty darn close.
She produced countless embroideries, needlepoint works, bed spreads, afghans, dolls, Christmas Stockings, etc. Embroidery is central to the Ukrainian culture from the Carpathian Mountains.
She had too many grandchildren and great grandchildren for me to remember, some of whom I have rarely if ever met.
She prayed for me and my family every day.
She liked doing crossword puzzles and exercised nearly every day that she could until her death.
She survived two heart attacks, diabetes, and cancer.
I would miss her more if I wasn’t so much like her.
Rest in Peace, Mother.