Jo Nita Ballard

January 23, 1943February 17, 2021

Jo Nita Ballard January 23, 1943—February 17, 2021

From “The Dash”: “He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.”

What to say about such a firebrand of a woman? I guess the basics first. She was born in Perryton, Texas—a small town in the Texas panhandle. She was adored by her doting mother, Adelia, and was lucky enough to be the first grandchild in the family.

She grew up in a time when women were expected to grow up, get married, and have children. She did do those things, but she did so much more.

Mom got her teaching degree with a specialty in Special Education from the University of Texas at Austin. She did it in 3 years too. She was always an overachiever.

After getting their degrees, my parents were ready to start a family, but nature wouldn’t bend. They tried for years to no avail. Mom so desperately wanted children. She had all but given up when, at age 30, she became pregnant with her son, Sam. Eighteen months later, she had me, her feisty daughter. Then she said, “That’s enough.” Ha!

Soon we moved from San Angelo to Odessa and finally settled in San Antonio, Texas. There, my mom became a leader in special education. She had such a knack with troubled children. She later decided to get her master’s. She became a counselor at Mark Twain Middle School. And so began the best years of her life.

She loved being a counselor, especially at this tough school with so many troubled kids. She spearheaded a program for conflict resolution to handle the terrible gang problem in the school. The kids respected and trusted her. She was their safe space, maybe the one adult they could finally trust. She was also tough as nails. She’d charge hell with a bucket of water. She’d walk right in the middle of a gang fight and somehow all the kids would do what she said. She had a look that could make a grown man feel like he was in the fifth grade in the principal’s office. She never lost that look, even in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. The staff would tell me that she would give them that look and they felt like they were in trouble.

My mother was so many things in her life—a career woman, a friend, a leader—but to me, she was my mom, the one who always knew just what to say; the one who held me when my heart was breaking; the rebel who taught me to be an independent woman and to think for myself. She saved my life and my brother’s life so many times.

Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. It took this vibrant, feisty woman and robbed her of her amazingly quick wit and sharp mind. It did have gifts, though. I know that is a strange thing to say, but it did. She forgot how to say most things, but she never forgot how to say, “I love you.” And I realized that was all that mattered in the end. It also gave me the most beautiful moment I will ever have in my life. My mom was having a particularly rough day. She couldn’t calm down. Her eyes were shut tight, and she was having full conversations with people far in her past. At one moment, she opened her eyes. She looked at me and said, “Mama? I thought I lost you. I looked for you everywhere.” (Her mom had died in a tornado three years before I was born, and my mom missed her so much). I told her, “I’m right here, baby. And I’m not going anywhere.” I held her hand, and for the rest of the day, she had her mom with her. Without dementia, my mom would never have had that experience. And I am honored and blessed to have been her mom for that day.

On the night she died, Texas was under extremely cold conditions. I was able to get to her home in time. I got into the bed with her, and I held her the rest of the night. I told her, “I’ll be ok, Mama” (even though I didn’t think I ever would). “You can let go now, Mama. You’ve done all you need to do. Mama and Grandma are waiting for you. Do you see them? They are holding out their arms, waiting to hold you and take you home. It’s ok to let go.” I don’t know if she could hear me or understand me, but I would like to believe her soul heard me. A little after midnight, my dear, sweet, firebrand of a mom took her last breath. The world is a little dimmer without her light. But I know she is watching over me. And I know she is finally with her mom again, the thing she wanted more than anything else.

Thank you, Mom, for making me the woman I am today, for saving me when I couldn’t save myself, for putting me back together when the world broke me into pieces. You were not just my mother. You were a mother to so many who didn’t get the fortune of being loved like Sam and I were.

My heart is heavy with your loss, but it is also full of all the love you gave me. Being able to care for you in your last years was the greatest honor of my life. And seeing you smile when I walked into the room was like seeing the sun after days of rain. I love you, Mama. Fly with the angels.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to:


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Jo Nita Ballard

have a memory or condolence to add?

Michael and Julie Wysong

February 26, 2021

So many incredible memories it’s hard to pick or pinpoint. In a general sense, my favorites times with my cousins were water skiing at Canyon Lake most weekends in the summer. The best part was seeing my mother Jeanne so happy with her favorite cousin Jody, and often times, also with my grandmother Bea. Sometimes I would get to stay over to be with the family, but more specifically Sam and Dawn, who I idolized and felt so cool when I was able to be with them :). It was really a second home for me and a place I felt loved and really wanted to be. Love Jody so much and all of the family so dear to me. Love you with all our hearts. Michael, Julie, Hadley (6) and Elise (4).

Sharon Harmon

February 25, 2021

JoNita possessed so much beauty and grace
with a vibrant personality and a heart full of love for her family. She was a very special cousin.

Jan Clark

February 24, 2021

Jo and I did several of our I'm in Charge lessons together at the schools for Assistance League. She was so much fun to be with and a great worker. When I was wanting to travel and looking for someone to travel with, she introduced me to Bettye Knox. We hit it off and had 4 great trips together to Europe and Eastern Canada. I didn't get to see Jo after she resigned from Assistance League.

I really appreciate your letting us know about Jo's passing and what an interesting life she had. She must have been a great counselor to deal with troubled kids.

Jo is with Bettye now as Bettye left us last year after a long illness. They were very good friends from what I heard.

My sympathy at this sad time,
Jan Clark

Marcia Lehman

February 24, 2021

I really got to know Jo after she joined Assistance League San Antonio and I worked alongside her in one of our programs, ‘I’m In Charge’. We worked in a classroom setting facilitating a program in which the children were given ways to stay safe in situations when adults weren’t with them. Jo worked tirelessly with the children and I always marveled at the patience and true compassion she showed them in the way she delivered our message, hoping it would keep at least one child out of harms way.

And that beautiful smile if hers!! It absolutely brightened up any room.

I feel blessed to have known Jo and will always cherish her as a dear friend! I know she is
smiling right now which makes heaven that much brighter!!!

Tanya Hammon

February 24, 2021

Such a special lady and friend!
I remember fondly our many times sharing lunches at Pompei Restaurant. This loving friend will certainly be missed.
Tanya Hammon

Ramiro Galvan

February 21, 2021

I loved it when I would call her mom she would smile and call me son even though she was just a few years older than me.

Nancy Harlan

February 21, 2021

Jo was a supportive, creative woman who contributed so much as a counselor at Mark Twain MS. She became a close friend and we remained close and in contact after we both left Mark Twain. In 2006 she gave me a pillow that I cherish this day: "Hold on to a true friend with both hands." Although her death saddens me and causes tears, she gave so much of her heart to others, and we are all better for her love. My love to her daughter Dawn, who is so much like Jo and who will continue to share love.

Anita Johnson Foster

February 20, 2021

To me she will always be cousin Jonita. We grew up family for at least 10 of her years: I remember Uncle Joe her dad and Aunt Adelia her mom well because she was 10 when I was born and we always spent holidays with family mainly my dads family . I remember Jonita best from those next 10 years of family gatherings. I remember her moms death and how Truly crushing it was for Jonita and her brother Dickie and Uncle Joe. She was a special person and I was blessed in the early years of my life to call her family, and to call her family as she leaves this earth for her true home in heaven with the many loved ones and friends who went before her. Rest In Peace Jonita. and Dawn my prayers are for you to have peace and assurance that she is with those who went before her including your brother,dad,grandma,grandpa,and uncle and those who I did not know but she did.

Shelby Lomack

February 20, 2021

Jo taking in some sunshine ❤️

Lynn Speroff

February 20, 2021

What a beautiful and wonderful Mom she was Dawn. I feel so grateful and privileged just to know about your relationship with her. You took such good care of her and couldn't have done a better job. I have loved hearing your stories about her and what she's done for you. It's so obvious how much she loved you. Thank you for being such a shining example of who she was by being who you are and sharing your light with all of us. I can think of no better way to honor your Mom. I love you.


Mom probably bossing someone around. Lol


Mom’s favorite picture. The prime of life—her 50s


Mom was always smiling


Mom as a teenager.


Mama was such a precious baby.


Mom and me back when we shared each other’s clothes


Mom probably laughing at something silly I said.


The best road trip we ever took—visiting our favorite uncle (her uncle, my great-uncle) Alvin. Magical trip