Mary Joella “Jo” Thornton Webb
Jo, the love, friend, and soulmate of mine, Don Webb, in marriage for 53 years passed away with me at her side from a brain tumor that struck 16 months ago despite otherwise excellent health.
Born in Los Angeles to Tom and Margy Thornton, Jo grew up in Santa Barbara where her father was an FBI agent from 1947 until retirement in 1965 while her mother was a home maker. Jo attended San Roque school and Bishop Garcia Diego High where she graduated in 1962. She met me in the summer after graduation marrying me on January 26, 1966, while I was at UCSB. Holding many different jobs over the course of her life, she was an administrative assistant at UCSB and UCSD while supporting me as I pursued my education ultimately receiving my Ph.D. Possessing a no-nonsense attitude, she realized early on that persistence and determination overrides all else in attaining ones goals, not education, genius, or talent. After following me in my endeavor and attending nine schools, and while working and raising our children, she earned her Bachelor’s degree at CSUB when living in Bakersfield, CA. She ultimately attained a teaching credential at UNR in Reno, NV where the family eventually settled in 1980. Such tenacity was instilled in her sister, nieces and nephews whose educational pursuits were supported through care packages sent to them when away at school. After working for 24 years in Reno at our son’s elementary school as a clinical aide, librarian, and ultimately a teacher, Jo retired to her beloved home, Santa Barbara.
Jo was a natural giver possessing an overriding empathy for others, especially children and families. She sent candy, cards, and flowers to her elderly aunts, uncles, cousins and friends on holidays and in times of sickness. She loved creating baby quilts, blankets and pillows for newborns of friends and family, and complete strangers when she learned that they were expecting. Though outgoing, she was inherently a shy, intuitive, introvert with an uncanny judge of character and a receptive listener sought out by others and family. While not a joiner of social organizations, she enjoyed social occasions. Christmas was her favorite season baking sweets for others, and hosting parties in our home, most recently as a B.O.D. (Bring Own Desert) Party where neighbors would share their favorite deserts in celebration of the season. Love of children was obvious in her dedication as a first grade teacher leaving her students at the end of the year with the precious gift of reading, and instilling in them a curiosity about the world and a love of learning. Loved by her students and their parents, Jo continued to stay in contact with them through the years.
A fiery red-head, Jo had a vivacious spirit possessing a childlike sense of wonder and excitement over simple everyday experiences, and a never-ending joy of life. Always ready for an adventure she traveled in Great Britain, China, Italy, Peru, and by motorhome with the family or me many times in every state and Canada. The pinnacle of motorhome trips was our adventure driving throughout Europe for one month for our 50th wedding anniversary. She was an avid reader and movie-going film buff. She enjoyed decorating her home with antiques, flower arrangements, and cross stitch and embroidery wall hangings, and also her yard spending every morning tending to her flowers, especially the roses. She always looked forward to time at the family cabin in the Sierra where we went on camping outings with family and enjoyed day hikes.
Moreover, she was a practical, caring, loving, compassionate, talented person, a loving wife, mother, grandmother, sister, teacher, and friend that is best summed up in an embroidery that she made that says, “The Love in your Heart was not put there to stay. Love isn’t Love till it’s given away.” She believed that “Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely with a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, champagne in one hand – strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming “WOW, WHAT A RIDE!” While it could be said that she had a fulfilling ride, unfortunately, lightening struck and her body never got to wear out. Our hearts shall forever be one. As the Arabic poet Kahil Gibran said about marriage in The Prophet: “You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore. You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.”
Jo is survived by me, her soulmate, two sons, Christopher in Reno, NV, Michael and his wife Alicia (Davey) in Oceanside, CA, two grandchildren, Kanan (12) and Mattsen (2) by Michael, and in Santa Barbara by her older brother Tim Thornton and younger sister Mollie Mann. It is an understatement that she will be sorely missed by them and all who had the good fortune to experience her spirit.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donations in her name to the Ronald McDonald House in Bakersfield CA, where the family once lived, online at https://www.classy.org/give/39769/#!/donation/checkout, by phone 661-327-4647, or check to The Bakersfield Ronald McDonald House, 420 34th Street, Bakersfield CA 93301. A celebration of Jo’s life will be held in Santa Barbara in June.