Joan "Jo" Wetherell Obituary

Joan "Jo" Hollingsworth Wetherell

July 2, 1931 - July 28, 2022
Born in Marshalltown, IA
Resided in Des Moines, IA
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Joan (Jo) Hollingsworth Wetherell, 2909 Woodland Ave, Des Moines, passed away from natural causes on July 28. She was 91.

Born in Marshalltown IA, to James Raymond Hollingsworth and Florence Wylie Hollingsworth, Jo grew up in Sycamore IL, Pittsburgh, and Grove City PA. When the family returned to Iowa to run the family farm in Gilman IA, Jo remained in Grove City for her senior year and graduated with her high school class in 1949. During that year she lived with a young couple who were close friends of her family, and with whom she remained in regular contact throughout the rest of their lives.

Jo enrolled at Iowa State University, graduating with a degree in home economics because Iowa State did not offer a major in fine arts, which was her greatest love. She was a member of Gamma Phi sorority, and remained close friends with many of her sorority sisters.

At Iowa State, she met and fell in love with architecture student John H. Wetherell. John was in the ROTC for the US Navy and after graduation was stationed in Pearl Harbor. Jo and John married in 1953(on her birthday -and afterward she only counted anniversaries) at the Submarine Memorial Chapel at Pearl Harbor and spent the first year of married life in an apartment near Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. Jo loved this paradise, and was sad to leave when John’s tour ended. Hawaii held a special place in their hearts, and they returned for their 25th and 50th wedding anniversaries.

While John had the degree in architecture, Jo had an equally keen eye for color and an unerring sense of design in both two and three-dimensions. In her professional life, she worked as an interior designer and decorator at Black’s Furniture for many years.

Throughout her life, Jo was an active volunteer in many organizations, including the Des Moines Art Center, Living History Farms, Terrace Hill, Central Iowa Shelter and Services, and the Japan - America Society of Iowa. In recognition of her service, Jo received the Governor’s Volunteer award in 1997. She was an active member of St Paul’s Episcopal Church for over 60 years.

Jo and John were active with the Iowa Sister-Cities and Sister-States organization, and took a trip to Japan as cultural ambassadors to Kofu, Des Moines’ sister-city, and Yamanashi Prefecture, Iowa’s sister-state. They also hosted visitors from Japan in their home for 20 years. Both John and Jo were deeply drawn to the arts, aesthetics, and culture of Japan. Jo studied ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, for many years.

A true extrovert, Jo was interested in people, made many lifelong close friendships, and could strike up a conversation with literally anyone. She nurtured friendships, noted the birthdates and anniversaries of her friends in her calendar, and carefully transferred them to a new calendar at the end of each year. She regularly sent cards and letters, although during the COVID pandemic, she called friends on the phone instead of sending cards. Jo’s kindness, care for others, and her respect for everyone is one of her lasting legacies.

She was preceded in death by her husband John, her parents, and her brother Jim. She is survived by her son John Wetherell and his wife Suzanne of Des Moines, her daughter Ann Wetherell and her husband Chad Southwell of Portland, OR, and her grandchildren Will Southwell (Portland) and Elizabeth Wetherell (Salt Lake City, UT).

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Aug 20, at 1 PM at St Paul’s Episcopal Church, 815 High Street, Des Moines, followed by a reception at Scottish Rite Park, 2909 Woodland Ave, Des Moines. The internment will be private.

Memorial contributions can be made to St Paul’s Episcopal Church, the Scottish Rite Park Miller Fund, 2909 Woodland Ave, Des Moines, IA 50312, and the Japan America Society of Iowa, PO Box 12093, Des Moines, IA 50312or, (click on donate).

Arrangements are by Iles-Dunn Funeral Home.




St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral
815 High Street
Des Moines, IA US 50309
Saturday, August 20, 2022
1:00 PM


St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral
815 High Street
Des Moines, IA 50309
Japan America Society of Iowa
PO Box 12093
Des Moines, IA USA 50312
Scottish Rite Park Miller Fund
2909 Woodland Avenue
Des Moines, IA US 50312