Josephine Catherine Merchant passed with peace and grace on August 30, surrounded by her loving children. She is survived by son James (Rita) and daughters Kathleen, Barbara, Patricia, and Jeanette (Darek); grandchildren Brittany (Jeremy), Ryan (Kellcie), Brad, Bret, and Hannah; and great-granddaughter Ainsley. Josephine (Jo) is preceded in death by her husband Donald, a WWII POW veteran, and by her eldest son Gerald, who we know greeted her with a big grin and a bear hug.
Jo was born in Devil's Lake, North Dakota in 1928 to Jacob and Frances Ell and grew up with two younger brothers, Jacob Jr. (Jack), and Bartholomew (Bert). Jo married the love of her life, Don, and in 1952 the young family settled in Modesto where Don secured a position at the Modesto State Hospital. Growing up, Jo played softball and always had strong capable arms that lifted the family physically and figuratively. Don died unexpectedly leaving her to raise six children ages 4-16. She carried on courageously working different jobs, especially enjoying her time as assistant librarian at Modesto High School in the 1970's. She would later retire from Stanislaus County and continue her focus on family. Bringing her loved ones together with a hearty home-cooked meal and a huge smile was her specialty. She will always be remembered as a loving and dedicated mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt and friend who welcomed neighborhood kids and others into her home and into her heart, who sacrificed and worked tirelessly for her family, and who would surprise you with a sassy remark when you least expected it. Her Catholic faith was very important in her life and she was an original member of the Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, a member of OLF Seniors, Catholic Daughters and Foresters. She loved to sing and her beautiful voice could be heard in church on Sundays. She was an avid round dancer, traveled all over Europe and the U.S., was a Scout leader, and supported Soroptimist of Modesto. Josephine tended the most beautiful backyard roses you have ever seen and developed enduring and meaningful relationships with her neighbors on Ardmore Avenue. She leaves us with her sweetness, pure and memorable laugh, and her beautiful spirit. A vigil and visitation will be held at Franklin & Downs Funeral Home McHenry Chapel on Thursday, September 13, at 5:00pm with the vigil beginning at 6:30pm. A funeral mass will be held at Our Lady of Fatima Church on Friday, September 14, at 10:00am followed with a reception in the parish hall. In lieu of flowers contributions in Josephine's honor may be made to the American Cancer Society or The American Heart Association .
The family would like to extend their gratitude to the Bethel Retirement Community, and others who cared for Josephine, and send their love to all who loved her.