At the first light of day on Oct. 15, 2019, JoAnn, age 76, of Elk River, formerly of Big Lake, embraced and released her bright and loving spirit with the encouragement of her two daughters. JoAnn was born March 21, 1943 in Hibbing, MN. Her family fostered her love of singing and the importance of serving others. JoAnn met John Stark on Aug. 5, 1958 at the St. Louis County Fair. He loved her from the moment they met and they were married on Sept. 4, 1965. She was a supportive military wife throughout John’s 40-year career in the U.S. Army. JoAnn earned a Master’s Degree in Education from St. Thomas College. She shared her love of learning and the earth, teaching Earth and Physical Science at Salk Junior High, where she taught for 23 years. She spent countless hours volunteering at Sherburne Wildlife Refuge, providing hospice, cooking for others, and singing in the choir. JoAnn loved the early morning for meditation and a good cup of coffee. She fed her spirit with walks in the woods, she loved the fall trees and rocks, so many rocks. Her bright and loving spirit made everyone she met feel accepted and appreciated. She shared genuine compliments and so much love. JoAnn made everything she touched fun. She valued serving others, embracing a heart of gratitude and the power of forgiveness. In her own words: “How grateful I am to have lived to be old. Business turned into quiet reflection. Reflection leads to time alone in the woods, among the trees and quiet sounds. The silence leads to overwhelming thankfulness for the gifts of this earth. I have learned to appreciate the integrity, honesty and perseverance of my husband, daughters: Julie and Jonie. My family and friends helped me learn life lessons when I was willing to listen. Thank you. Our grandchildren delighted me with their innocence, enthusiasm, and love of play. I learned we only need to learn to love and forgive and enjoy our time here.” JoAnn is survived by her daughters, Julie and Jonie; grandchildren, Matier, Jake, Markus and Helena; brothers, Tom (Sally) Gaige and Jerry (Shay) Gaige. She is preceded in death by her parents, Elizabeth and Leslie Gaige; husband, John; sister, Sue Forsmark; brother, Patrick Gaige. Mass of Christian burial at 11 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 at Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church, 440 Lake St. N., Big Lake, with visitation one hour prior. Dare’s Funeral Home, 763-441-1212, www.daresfuneralservice.com
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