May 10, 2015

Grandma JoAnn Catherine ! !

Twenty years ago, in 1995, I worked on a project called Recuerdos de Mi Abuela JoAnn ~ Memories of my Grandma JoAnn. 

I asked about 50 people who knew my Mother to write letters to my niece, JoAnn, with memories about my Mom. In 1995, JoAnn was an infant, I knew the day would come when she would be older and be able to appreciate the personal history and the recollections shared by friends and family in these letters. 

The request was sent to family, friends, and co-workers in Panama, Iowa, and Rochester, Minnesota.  The response was wonderful and I was able to put together a book for JoAnn. I included photos, newspaper articles and even a label from a champagne bottle, see below. 

I asked my DAD and all my siblings to write a letter to JoAnn about their Grandma, JoAnn.  Recently when I was going through all the files in my office, I found a copy of the manuscript with all the original responses. Below is what my DAD wrote twenty years ago to his granddaughter, JoAnn Catherine. 

Dr. & Mrs. Rogelio & JoAnn Arosemena 


Dearest Granddaughter JoAnn Catherine Arosemena Navarro: 

Destiny has prevented you JoAnn from getting to know personally your Grandmother, JoAnn C. Rodewald. 

Words are inadequate to describe how your wonderful Grandma JoAnn was. She was a very caring, loving, hard working individual, who always wanted the best for her family and all the people in her life. 

Grandpa met Grandma while a surgical fellow at the Mayo Clinic. JoAnn was the heard surgical nurse for the world famous surgeon, Dr. J. P. Priestly and Dr. Claude F. Dixon.  Our engagement was announced at the house of Dr. Priestly during his Christmas party in 1953. We were married in January of 1954 and honeymooned at The Cloister in Sea Island, Georgia.  Grandpa won a bottle of champagne in a Zumba contest. 

Relatives of Grandma JoAnn wondered about Panama.  They had ideas of indians in canoes, bananas, mosquitoes, primitive living ----- ha ha what a surprise. 

JoAnn won the hearts and friendships of all Panamanians. She became fluent in Spanish and was elected president of the Garden Club of Panama.  A beautiful home was built in Altos del Golf in Panama City. JoAnn orchestrated while in Panama the unforgettable family Christmas dinner reunions, great birthday parties for the kids and the house was always  immaculate. 

Politics and dictators made us leave Panama and we landed in Barstow, California in 1970.  Another beautiful home was built, the day we moved into our new home, JoAnn entered the hospital for a routine surgery only to find advanced cancer of the ovaries, that resulted in her death within 22 months. 

During this period of her life, JoAnn was  great soldier, she fought her disease with great courage, loving her children and her family.  Three weeks before her death she asked me not to bring the children to the hospital because she did not want to be remembered in her terminal condition.  JoAnn, my dearest wife was called by the Lord at 10am on May 10th, 1974. 

Twenty-two years have gone by since her death. From heaven she has helped me raise 5 wonderful children.  Her love and admiration permeates our lives, there will never be another wife and mother like JoAnn Rodewald.  She was and still is the greatest lady on earth. 

JoAnn Catherine Rodewald Arosemena 

Together we had five children, Rogelio III, your father, loves you to no end.  Two Uncles, Carlos and Tobias, and your two Aunts, Elena and Ana, they all think the world of you. 

Elena, your aunt will present you in the near future with this manuscript to help you realize why you were named JoAnn Catherine.  A name that symbolizes great ladies in our family history.  

God Bless you JoAnn, you are a truly wonderful Granddaughter. 


Grandpa Rogelio


The book contains the original label from the champagne bottle that my Dad wrote about in his letter to JoAnn. My Dad also had the original receipt from the Cloisters Resort.  Their stay in 1954 was from 1/26 to 1/31, the total bill $202.80. Rooms at that time were $33.99 per night.  The receipt also states that they were the 10,365 couple to honeymoon there.