Monday, November 1, 2021 9:47 pm
Joan Margaret (Whitfield, Wilks) Lavell, age 79, passed away peacefully in her sleep on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, after a difficult struggle with COPD.
She was born on March 29, 1942, to Iris (Gray) and Edward Whitfield in Morpeth, Northumberland, England. Her birth father passed away young, but she was not without a father figure. Her mother later remarried Maurice Wilks, known as Grandad Tupp, who took Joan and her sister in as his own. Joan met Michael A. “Mike” Lavell of Iowa, at the Airbase Airman’s Club at RAF Wethersfield in Wethersfield, Essex, England, where Mike was stationed with the U.S. Air Force. They soon married on Feb. 8, 1964, in Chelmsford, Essex, England. Joan bravely moved to the United States with 2-month old daughter Julie in November of 1964. She left behind many friends and family in England to start a life here.
She became a citizen of the USA in 1982. Mike’s work would take them to 7 states before they retired in Minnesota and Iowa. Mike passed away in 2015; they were married for 50 years.
Joan was a homemaker and side hustlin’ seamstress. She was the queen of sit-down meals, ironed Mike’s business suit for work every single day, and was the mom in rollers in the school drop-off line. Joan was a caretaker – she helped Mike take care of his brother, Ron, and continued to after Mike passed – a total of 25 years. She was also Mike’s rock when he was going through chemo and radiation through both bouts of throat cancer, and in his final months. Joan enjoyed talking with friends and family, visiting friends and family back in England, sewing, cooking, and gardening. Mike and Joan enjoyed their fruit trees and garden during the 20+ years they spent together after Mike’s retirement. They also enjoyed fly-ins, auctions, and working together on thoughtful, homemade gifts for their children and grandchildren.
Joan was very well known for her sewing skills and raspberry jam. The grandkids will remember her silly English talk, jokes, and the adventures Papa and Grandma would plan when they would stay with them for a week every summer. They will remember their wedding dress fittings with Grandma as their seamstress. They will remember her honest opinions and how proud Grandma was of where she came from.
Joan became known as “Nanny” with the birth of the first great-grandchild in 2014. She adored her 10 great-grandchildren and they adored her. The great-grandchildren will remember English tea and biscuits with Nanny. They often saw the silly side of Nanny – dressing up for Halloween parties, funny English sayings and nursery rhymes, and other fun surprises. They will also remember the weekly visits with treats at Nanny’s – a rather large candy stash that was, more-or-less, self-serve. And, with every goodbye, there was waving until both Nanny and the kiddos could no longer see each other. Soon after Mike passed away in 2015, Joan bravely moved to Wisconsin on the Reisell Farm to be closer to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It was wonderful to have her so near for the past 6+ years – just a ranger ride away for many. Joan’s final couple years were challenging as she slowed down quickly. She was so very well taken care of by her children, Julie and Mike, and their spouses, Craig and Beatriz. Joan was very grateful for the entire “farm family,” including the Farrell family’s care and visits – Roy, Carla, Luke, Bailey, and Jordan – thank you. Our family would also like to thank Kim O’Connell for the exceptional care she gave to Joan. Dear friend, Martha Rortvedt, was there to keep Joan company and even spend nights there to care for her. Agrace HospiceCare was also an incredible support these past 6 months.
Joan is survived by her daughter, Julie (Craig) Reisdorf of Blue Mounds, Wis.; son, Michael J. (Beatriz) Lavell of Blue Mounds, Wis.; 5 granddaughters, Whitney (Branden) Mauger, Tanya (Peter) Docken, Jacqueline (Jeremy) Kronabetter, Astrid (Zach) Melms, and Jaika (Ben) Makos; and 10 great-grandchildren, Claire, Lucy, Kaleb, and Nolan Mauger, Madysen and Maverick Docken, Hudson and Crosbi Kronabetter, Michael B. and Mila Makos; sister-in-law, Sister Maxine Lavell OSF of Dubuque, IA; and brother-in-law, Ron Lavell of Ossian.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Michael A. Lavell in 2015; her mother, Iris Wilks; fathers, Edward Whitfield and Maurice Wilks; and her sister, Iris Mayhew.
A private family graveside service will be held. Schmitz-Grau Funeral Home and Cremation Service of Ossian, is assisting the family with arrangements
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