In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we should give thanks for all that we have, all those we have lost and the cherished memories we have of them. Today’s memory is of Jo Ann Hemperley, the third child of Jesse Raymond and Earnestine Jane Parker Hemperley.
Today would have been the fifty-fourth birthday of Jo Ann who was born on November 23, 1961 in Vivian, Louisiana and was welcomed home by older sister, Janet, brother, Johnny Ray and a large family that included grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Jesse and Earnestine lived just down the street from my family for years and so their children, while cousins of my kids, grew up more like brothers and sisters. They learned to ride bikes, water ski, camp and crawfish, and fish. They got into trouble together, shared all holidays, and seldom, if ever, fussed. They were just normal children; mischievous; healthy and happy until the summer of 1972 when Jo Ann became ill.
Jesse and Earnestine were excited about a trip they had won to Las Vegas and Don and I were to be their children’s babysitter while they were gone. They had barely left when Jo Ann became ill and was seen by Dr. Mack in Shreveport. Prior to Jesse and Earnestine’s return, Dr. Mack told Don and me she had cancer and needed to be admitted to St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Upon arriving home Jesse and Earnestine repacked their bags and headed north as there was no time for hesitation in getting to St. Jude’s; Janet and Johnny would remain with my family. The next few months were a test of family, love, hope and separation. Along the way we would learn lessons about family and what bravery one small beautiful little girl would teach us.
During the next six months Jo Ann was poked, prodded, tested, given cancer killing treatments, and lost her hair but I never heard her complain. On occasions she was able to return home for short visits and while she was not able to enjoy her siblings and family members as before, you could see happiness in her eyes to be home and surrounded by loved ones.
She was always hopeful the next treatment would be her last. Losing her long blonde hair wasn’t a big deal since she had gotten a wig at St. Jude’s to cover her baldness. She loved the staff at St. Jude’s and told of their sweet comforting manner. She was a brave little trouper with a lot of courage which each of us admired.
On February 11, 1973 Jo Ann passed away at St. Jude’s. She is buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery in Carthage, Texas.
This Thanksgiving we should give thanks for our families and the importances of each individual for each is dear and sometimes teach us the true meaning of life, love and family. This Thanksgiving we should give thanks for those we have loved and lost for without them there would be no warm memories. May your Thanksgiving be filled with family, food and warm memories!