Joan Elizabeth "Jo" (Flood) Babbitt
September 29, 1928 – February 26, 2021
Like a bird I soar— Not in body, but spirit, To rest in you, God. --haiku by Jo Babbitt
Joan (“Jo”) Elizabeth Flood Babbitt Sept. 29, 1928 - Feb. 26, 2021 If you were lucky enough to have crossed paths with Jo Babbitt, you would certainly have remembered her. She was upbeat and optimistic. She genuinely cared about others. When she asked people how they were doing (which she almost always did), she wanted to know how they were really doing. She was a master of the art of listening. She was empathetic. She offered hospitality and kindness to everyone she met. As her faculties declined, her spirit fought to maintain these gifts. She was a living example of “faith” and “character.” She would tell anyone who asked that she had lived a “Rich Life!” And if you had an opportunity to really know Jo Babbitt, you bore witness to what an amazing person she was. She was married to her college sweetheart, the Reverend Doctor James J. Babbitt, Sr. (“Jim”) for over fifty years. Jim was a lifelong United Methodist pastor. Entering the ministry was a calling that Jim and Jo answered as a team. It was quite a bargain for the United Methodist Church, which got two incredibly gifted leaders when Jim and Jo signed on. Over almost 50 years, Jim pastored churches in Indiana, served as Campus Minister at Ball State University, taught at Garrett Seminary in Evanston, and served as District Superintendent for the Gary region. As they began their ministry, Jo (who was also an educator and accomplished pianist) would play the church organ, feed the congregation (which she believed was an essential part of their mission of care), draft and print bulletins and newsletters and do whatever was expected and/or needed to meet the needs of their congregation. For example, when they first began their ministry in Indiana, Jo taught and worked with the Associated Churches’ Bible program, served as a den mother for a scout group, cooked for 125 students a week while Jim served as a campus minister, and did the many other things expected of clergy spouses at the time. She did this all as she served the role of a stay-at-home Mom to four young children. And as if there wasn’t enough on their plates, they decided that it was important for Jim to study for (and ultimately receive) his Doctorate of Sacred Theology degree at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. With little savings and only a small stipend to live on, the family moved to Evanston in 1966 for Jim to begin work on his doctorate. Jo, who was the primary caregiver for their four children (then aged 14, 12, 4, and 2) and the only child of her widowed mother (who she cared for until her death in 1985) ultimately had to seek “paying” jobs. In 1972, after a year at the UMC Board of Pensions, she took a part-time job at the ecumenical ministry at Northwestern University. There she listened to students, worked with the auditor and the printer, wrote copy, and was basically a jack of all trades. Needing more time at home to manage care for her mother and children, she took a job at United Methodist Communications, which quickly became an especially challenging and fulfilling full-time job as Director of Print Production and Distribution. She held that job until they relocated to Nashville in January 1986. Thereafter, she went to work for the Board of Pensions in Evanston and continued to commute to that job from Crown Point, Indiana, for some time after her husband was appointed as the regional District Superintendent. But those amazing abilities did not tell her full story. She loved words! She was a lifelong writer and gifted poet. She loved music, movies, and TV (Masterpiece Theater was a favorite). For several years, she looked forward to visits to her daughter Barbara’s family in New Jersey - and particularly enjoyed their trips to the theatre district in New York and their attendance at “Martinis with Henry” (from “As the World Turns”) gatherings. After several years of travelling with Jim to visit family and friends and to spend time at one of their two seasonal retirement homes (Oakwood Park on Lake Wawasee, Indiana, or in Winter Garden, Florida), Jim passed away in August, 2003. While this was a time of great personal loss and sadness, Jo ultimately embraced living on her own for the first time in her life. For many years to come she drove (alone!) from Indiana to Florida while she continued the migration pattern that she and Jim had enjoyed during their “golden years”- enjoying the warmth and (poolside) beauty of Florida while the rest of her family were left to battle the northern winters. And she took time in this “new chapter” to invest substantial energies in family and friends - but particularly in her adoring grandchildren and great grandchildren. Gigi Jo became a spiritual leader, role model, teacher, and example of how to “live your best life!” She did so as a loving, kind, gracious - yet fiercely independent - woman. In recent years, Jo returned to Evanston, where son Jim and his wife Michele graciously opened their home to her, as she had done for her own mother years before; this deeply enriched the last part of her life. She became an associate member at First Congregational Church of Evanston, UCC, where daughter Beth is a member. There she loved and was much beloved. As the end of her life on earth approached, and as she balanced retaining her faculties with accepting her slide from independence to reliance, the lessons taught became even more powerful and profound. Jo’s grace, love, and faith serve as a continued blessing to her family. Jo is survived by her son Jim, Jr., (wife Michele, children Sarah, Samantha, Andy, and Anita); son Robin (wife Tina, children Meredith, Whitney, and Colin); daughter Beth Babbitt Borst (husband Tom); and daughter Barbara Babbitt Incardona (husband Jim, children Elisabeth and Luke); many loving grand-spouses, and ten great grandchildren. She openly and repeatedly expressed her firm belief that her children had married wonderful, loving, and caring people who she dearly cherished - just as she cherished her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Jo was the only child of her adoring parents, Harry and Susan Flood of Hagerstown, Indiana, but through her marriage was blessed with two loving sisters, including the late Naomi Barber. She is survived by her other dear sister(-in-law), Sue Morgan; their deep mutual affection reminds us that it is still possible for Democrats and Republicans to lovingly co-exist. The family would like to extend their special thanks to all of the excellent caregivers at Wickshire of Wilmette (formerly Sunrise) who have rendered such warm and conscientious care to our Mom over the course of the past year and a half. If so moved, memorial donations may be made to the James and Joan Babbitt Scholarship; we are honored that their ministerial legacy will live on. Checks should be made payable to Garrett-Evangelical with a note for “Babbitt Scholarship” in the memo line; mail to: Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, 2121 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60201. Or donations may be made online at http://www.garrett.edu/giving.
- Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary: Checks should be made payable to Garrett-Evangelical with a note for “Babbitt Scholarship” in the memo line; mail to: Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, 2121 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60201. Or donations may be made online by clicking this link.
Saturday, March 6, 2021
Joan Elizabeth "Jo" (Flood) Babbitt
April 5, 2021
Getting to know Joan throughout the last year was such an honor. Her smile would brighten anyones day. Her love for music, God and her family was unwavering. Joan taught me the power of a hug and a smile & I will take that with me for the rest of my days. Rest easy Joan
March 11, 2021
Our memories are to many to mention individually. Meeting at the pool, going shopping, having dinner, helping each other with things around the house, and of course playing cards. We talked and laughed so much. We feel so blessed to have known Jo and had her in our lives. She was such a special friend. We will miss her very much . Until we meet again God Bless you Jo.
Mary and Jim
March 1, 2021
If the adage that “grief is simply love persevering” is true, then I fear I will be grieving for the rest of my days. Mom embodied the word “love”, and always put the concerns and needs of others before herself. She adored her family, doted on us all and truly led by example. Simply put, she was one of the finest people I have ever known, and if she hadn't been my Mom, I could have only wished that I would have known her and been lucky enough to be called her my friend – that by itself would have been a great privilege and honor.
I just wanted to say, “I love you, Mom”. I will not say goodbye though, because I know that some day in the future (pending God’s approval, of course), I will once again feel her warm and loving embrace.