JoAnn Lewis Nixon was born on April 28, 1935 in Muskogee, OK. She left this earth on July 29, 2022. Her parents, Harold and Ruth Lewis of Muskogee, preceded her in death.
JoAnn is survived by husband Dean Nixon, Sr., daughter Debbie Rew and husband Stephen of Evergreen, Colorado, and son Dean Nixon, Jr. and wife Diem of Birmingham, Alabama; grandson Jason Rew and wife Anna (with great-grandchildren Joshua and William Rew) of North Bend, Washington; granddaughters Stephanie Rew of Evergreen, Colorado and Sofia Nixon of Birmingham; Brother Mike Lewis and wife Lillian of Millerton, Oklahoma. Other family members who will miss her are three nieces, a nephew and several cousins and in-laws.
JoAnn loved a life of adventure and she certainly enjoyed many unique experiences in her 67-year marriage to Dean. She was always willing to move, travel, work and help others. In 2017, JoAnn went on a big trip to China with Dean. She loved this trip! In the last decade she has also traveled to Quebec City, New England, and other shorter trips around the country. A few years ago she went on a snowmobile day trip in Colorado! JoAnn enjoyed these trips despite struggling with terrible, chronic back pain and several health issues. JoAnn was a STRONG woman!
JoAnn Lewis Nixon was born on April 28, 1935 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Her parents, Ruth and Harold Lewis, were Christians and JoAnn was baptized as a teenager. She started dating Dean in high school. He was a basketball star and JoAnn was told that she could be the basketball queen, but Dean didn’t want her to be queen because he didn’t want the captain to kiss her! She worked as a clerk at the Muskogee Court House while Dean was a freshman at the University of Oklahoma. They were married on August 24, 1955 and she helped him through college by working as secretary to the Chief Naval Officer at the Naval Air Technical Training Station in Norman, OK. Unexpectedly, her daughter Debbie appeared on stage and JoAnn continued to work, becoming a new mother and supporting Dean through graduation.
From that point on, her life revolved around Dean’s jobs in the petroleum industry and later jobs in the drilling, coal and minerals industries. Dean said: “JoAnn has always been there for me. Always. She was willing to move wherever my jobs took us, including overseas to Venezuela.” They’ve moved to 10 different cities 11 times in the last 67 years. They lived in Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Caracus, Venezuela.
JoAnn was a stay-at-home mom while Debbie and Dean Jr. were growing up. She has been involved in the church, its activities, dean’s duties at work, and as the vice president of the Oklahoma Jaycee’s. When they first moved to Birmingham in 1972, Dean was running his own business. JoAnn was his office manager. Later, in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, JoAnn got a job at Digital Equipment in Dallas. She was involved in the early development of personal computers and became and remained very computer savvy. JoAnn was very tech savvy and could solve most computer problems. Just last week she was paying bills online!
JoAnn was known for her classic beauty and stunning blue eyes. Many have said over the years that she looks like a movie star. Most importantly, JoAnn had a beautiful, kind spirit. Debbie said one of her memories from her time in Bartlesville (1960s-1972) was one of JoAnn’s church friends saying to Debbie, “Your mother is the kindest, sweetest person. I’ve never heard her say a bad word about anyone.” Debbie recalls a neighbor getting angry and yelling at the children playing in the yard. The woman was angry about something. Instead of getting angry at the woman, JoAnn went over to talk to her, calm her down and defuse the situation. Debbie also recalls her mother reinforcing moral lessons. When Debbie was 5 years old, she picked a flower from a neighbor’s garden to give to her mother. The neighbor happened to be very proud and protective of her garden. JoAnn thanked Debbie for the gift but told her she had to take the flower back to the neighbor and apologize for pulling it out of her flower bed. Debbie never forgot that lesson!
JoAnn was very artistic with food, clothes and home decoration. As a cook, she is legendary. Dean’s favorite dishes she’s made are homemade chicken and dumplings, coconut cake, and blackberry cobbler. JoAnn always put a home-cooked meal on the table for her family until a few years ago, when she stopped cooking due to concussions. But she could still guide others in the kitchen and teach them how to make cakes, cinnamon rolls, or food. She sewed most of her and Debbie’s dresses until the mid-1970s. Most amazingly, she hand sewed all of the clothing for Debbie’s Barbie dolls. She made them very fashionable! JoAnn always dressed in style for herself and her family. She knew the latest fashion trends and adapted them to each person. She’s lived in many different types of housing over the years – from apartments to houses. Her homes always looked like they were done by a professional interior designer, but JoAnn did all the decorating herself. She never bragged about those skills or made a fuss about them – she was humble and didn’t draw attention to herself.
JoAnn and Dean have three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Jason, her grandson, said: “She was everything a boy could ask for in a grandmother, warm, patient, kind, loving and always spoiled us with wonderful home cooked food. Although she didn’t hear too well, she was a great conversationalist. Mama-Jo was always interested in what was going on in our lives and loved talking to us.”
Granddaughter Stephanie remembers Mama-Jo as “beautiful, stylish, creative and friendly with a quick wit that could sneak up on you and make you laugh when you least expected it. Her hospitality and cooking skills were renowned, and some of my precious moments were spent in the kitchen and learning from her. Although she could be quite demanding as a “chef”, she was always patient and gentle when I was making a mess or sneaking a spoonful of cookie dough. That was true outside of the kitchen, too. No matter where we were in life, she always made us feel given to be home.She has lived and loved well and is loved dearly and missed dearly.
Dean Jr., JoAnn’s son, said, “When I think of the most precious mother, wife, wife, but most of all person who has always shown love, caring, passion, elegance and wisdom, there is a quote from the 1998 film” Meet Joe Black,” which fits their love perfectly: ‘Multiply it by infinity and take it to the depths of eternity and you’ll still have little idea what I’m talking about.'”
JoAnn’s most important roles as wife, mother, grandmother and friend will never be forgotten. She fulfilled these roles well. She was the woman of Proverbs 31:
A woman of noble character, who can find her?
It’s worth a lot more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and nothing valuable is missing.
She brings him good, not harm,
all days of her life
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
She can laugh about the coming days.
she speaks with wisdom
and faithful instruction is on their tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and eat not the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband too, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be commended.
Honor them for all their hands have done
and let their works bring their praise at the city gate.
You would probably be surprised at the many different challenges that JoAnn has had in her life. She was strong in many ways. While living in Venezuela, Dean had some frightening interactions with political factions in Colombia. JoAnn got separated from him when a group took him to their camp in the jungle. She didn’t know if he would be brought back. She survived the night in her hotel room and Dean was brought back the next day. JoAnn was strong in those days when she lived in Venezuela. She had to do laundry on a washboard, learn the language, learn how to cook different foods with fewer supplies. She was amazing!
JoAnn’s favorite vacations were a 1970’s trip through Arizona to the Grand Canyon and the 2017 trip through China. That was the last time she and Dean could dance. They were excellent dance partners, especially on the Jitterbug! On the trip to China, her hosts took her to a nightclub. People were surprised when they hit the dance floor and made a modified Jitterbug at the age of 82! JoAnn’s next adventure is her greatest and we know she’s dancing with the angels in heaven. She has no pain, she can hear perfectly, she has no tremors. She is young again—she laughs, dances, and after many years of serving so many of us here on earth as the accomplished homemaker—she is now resting in her eternal home.
~Written by Debbie Rew
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Published by Lescher Millsap Funeral Service, LLC – Muskogee on August 4, 2022.