JoAnn (Paynter)(O’Connell) Kessler, age 67, passed away at home surrounded by her family on Thursday, September 15, 2016 after a year-long battle with ovarian cancer. She was born on September 27, 1948, in Madison, the daughter of Ruth and John Paynter. JoAnn was a graduate of Madison East High School and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
JoAnn worked as a Dane County Sheriff’s Deputy from 1979 until her retirement in 2000. She later spent time as a Social Worker and Child Advocate in Dane County. Her commitment to children, public service and community was her top priority throughout her professional career and continued into her retirement. She was a Commissioner on the Dane County Affirmative Action Commission, on the Board of Directors of the Mental Health Center of Dane County and the Rubin for Kids scholarship program. JoAnn founded “Crazy Community Projects,” that she ran for five years starting in 1997, collecting backpacks, Thanksgiving dinners, Easter Baskets, and Christmas presents for families in need, through donations from friends and colleagues in the Dane County Criminal Justice system. JoAnn and her dog Theodore also participated in the Pet Partners Therapy Animal program, where she and “Teddy” helped improve the health and well-being of others by visiting hospitals and nursing homes. She won several awards including the Outstanding Service Award from the Dane County Juvenile Court, the Karen L. Brickner Memorial Award, and was runner up for the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian award.
In addition to her professional achievements, JoAnn enjoyed gardening, traveling, cheering for the Wisconsin Badgers and spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren. Her gardens were showcased in the 2010 Olbrich Garden Tour.
JoAnn is survived by her husband, John Kessler; her mother, Ruth Paynter; her sister, June Paynter; her children Catie Tollefson (Bob), John O’Connell (Meredith), Branden Kessler (Sara); grandchildren Alonya and Aticas Kessler, and Grace O’Connell. She is also survived by her beloved dogs Theodore and Gertie. She was preceded in death by her father, John Paynter, and her most beloved dog Clyde.
In lieu of a memorial service, JoAnn’s wish was for everyone to give back in whatever way you can, to children, your communities, and your charities of choice. JoAnn’s final act of giving was to donate her organs and tissue to medical research in the hope that it will benefit others struggling with cancer. The best way to honor JoAnn’s memory is to be kind and give to others.
Cancer took someone from all of us that truly made the world a better place. JoAnn’s family would like to express their gratitude to the staff of the UW Carbone Cancer Center and Agrace Hospice care in Madison for their care and support.
“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” - Aesop