April 3, 1947 - January 8, 2021
Jo died peacefully, in the Riverview Health Center, with family at her side.
Jo was predeceased by her parents, Martin C Toews and Elizabeth Wiebe Toews; sister Alice Toews; brothers, Harry Toews and Donald Toews; sister-in-law Marlene Toews; brothers-in law, Wayne Jones, George Ivosevic, Jan Bron, and Abe Unger; nephews, Andrew Toews, Gilbert Unger, and Norman Unger.
Jo will be sadly missed by her sisters, Frances Unger, Anna Fullerton, Elizabeth Jones, Norma Toews, and Janet Toews; and her brother Alvin Toews.
Jo’s family kindly requests that her friends and relatives take a few minutes to honour her memory by watching the photo-biography above. Please, also consider sharing your own photos and/or sharing your own memories and stories using the comment section on this page.
The family thanks the Selkirk Mental Health Center and Riverview Health Center for the good care Jo received since 2009.
Josie grew up in the farming community of Greenland MB. Much of her early years were spent outside, in summer playing with the barn kittens, playing hide and go seek in the tall grasses with cousins and siblings; in winter buildings snow forts, sliding down hills of snow. She was the instigator of impromptu plays. A devourer of prose and poetry. This lasted until she could no longer read; she still held a book in her hands for many years after. Education in a one room schoolhouse from grades one to eight (Greenland South); Landmark High School for the rest.
Her love of poetry was not only to read it but write as well. Her most productive years were in the 1980’s. With great enthusiasm she participated in Artistic Expressions held in Steinbach during the time she lived there. The Carillon News called her ‘the Steinbach Poet’. Jo had a variety of work situations: clerical, Education, Health field. Interest in unions came while working at the Municipal Hospitals; this interest was strong during this time. Later worked for an NDP candidate during a political campaign. Jo’s love of music led her eventually to volunteer for a few years in the Folk Festival kitchen. Being behind the scenes was exciting, meeting many of the ‘folkies’ as they all lined up for the food this festival was known for.
She lived in Winnipeg and Steinbach most of her life. She spent several years living in Selkirk (at the Mental Health Center) due to struggles working to live with schizophrenia. To facilitate Josie’s want/need to live independently (in Steinbach), Community Mental Health provided two proctors; Connie Plett and Marina Friesen. They were very fond of Josie; doted on her, might we say, spoiled her a bit. Jo needed that wholehearted affection.
Time spent at Janet’s cabin in Woodridge was a highlight for Josie. As soon as we walked into the clearing a wood fire was immediately on the go. For cooking food and brewing that delicious coffee. Jo loved food and never more than that made in the clearing time and again. She loved going for long drives where we would stop for coffee, blueberry muffins, or a short smoke.
There came a time when she did not enjoy going for those long rides, stopping for a McDonalds coffee and blueberry muffin or stopping for a cigarette break. Going to Alvin and Marlene’s for a wiener roast or for a slice of Marlene’s delicious cake. Her world slowly started to become smaller. She was fearful when not immediately surrounded by familiar people and places. Clearly dementia was not just on the
horizon, it was happening now. She lost the ability to fashion words, no longer recognized faces only, names. She would look us in the eye for long periods of time. We did not know what thoughts were behind that look. The person we knew as our sister Josephine became a stranger, our love for her did not diminish.
Rest in peace, Josephine. May you be writing poetry in your new home as we say goodbye.
It was a plain nose (as noses go)
But this one stayed
He insisted it just followed him around
(That plain nose) as noses grow
But this didn’t it stayed the same
It just grew on him
And then it grew on me,
That plain nose, you know.
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