WGS Member Jo Jane Walter Obituary




Josephine Jane (Forsythe) Walter passed away on November 7, 2021, in Hiawatha, IA.  She was born to Frances and Perry Forsythe on December 19, 1927, on a stormy night in her parents’ farm house located six miles outside of Griswold, IA.  As she remembered being told, when her brother Charlie, age 5, saw his new sister for the first time he said, “She has red hair,” and promptly walked out of the room.  Named after her two grandmothers, her parents decided she should be called “Jo Jane.” Everyone knew her by that name until her little sister, Carol Ann, began talking and simply called her “Jo.” 

In 1936, the Forsythe family moved to a farm just south of Walnut.   They moved using heavily loaded wagons pulled over several miles of muddy, hilly roads to the highway where their family possessions were then loaded onto trucks and taken to their new home. 

Jo Jane graduated from Walnut High School in 1945 with 23 of her classmates, after which she entered a two-year teaching certificate program at Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls, IA.  At that time, tuition was $26 per quarter for freshmen and sophomores, and that included a $6 fee to attend all athletic events and other student functions. After graduation in 1947, she accepted a teaching position in Griswold and taught 1st grade there for one year.

Jo Jane married Donald Eugene Walter on June 23, 1948, and moved back to Walnut where she and Don set up housekeeping and later became the parents of Janie “Jane” and Shari.  She worked as a substitute teacher in Walnut from 1958-1971.

Jo Jane devoted her life to her family, home, church and community.  She and Don lived in Walnut for 68 years until, in 2016, they moved to Primrose Retirement Community in Council Bluffs where they were both active members of the Ambassadors’ Club.  They cherished their life together until Don passed away after 71 years of marriage at which time Jo Jane moved to the Cedar Rapids area to be closer to Shari and her family.  Don and Jo Jane were true partners, working side-by-side in various business ventures and community activities.  They were members of the Walnut First Presbyterian Church, served on minister search committees, session and board, and were loyal members of the church choir for over 50 years.  Jo Jane served as Bible school director for three consecutive years and could be found baking cinnamon rolls from scratch and making sage dressing for church-sponsored functions. 

Over the years, she especially enjoyed sewing, knitting, ceramics, and cooking.  Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren claim that she was the best cook ever.  Their favorite meal at Grandma’s house was homemade chicken and noodles, her sweet corn prepared with butter and a little dash of sugar, and freshly baked cinnamon rolls.

Jo Jane was a member of the Presbyterian Women’s group, Walnut Federated Garden Club, Red Hat Society and Walnut Genealogy Society.  Many who knew her will recall her ready smile, thoughtful acts of kindness, and sometimes gentle “scolding” when Don was about to tell one of his stories – “Now, Don Walter…”  As a tribute to her parents, their daughter, Jane, interviewed her parents, authored both of their biographies and donated hardbound copies to the Walnut Genealogy Society.  The books are available for review there.  They describe and depict the life and times of a generation past.

When asked what advice she would pass on to others, Jo Jane offered the following:

  • Be true to yourself, your family and your friends.
  • Make sure that what you say is true.
  • Remember that when you are pointing a finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you.
  • Be kind and never, I say never, forget to live by the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • Never forget the blessings that God has bestowed upon you and thank Him daily.
  • Say your prayers.

Jo Jane is survived by her daughters Janie “Jane” Whitmire (Marshall), Camp Verde, AZ and Shari Mailander (Bill), Hiawatha, IA, and sister, Carol DeBruyn (Mike), Long Grove, IA.  She was the loving, and well-loved, grandmother of six grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren. 

A celebration of her life is currently scheduled for July 2, 2022, at 9:00 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Walnut.