The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 5, 2012

Margaret J. Westerburg

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT —  Margaret “Joanne” Westerburg, age 87, died on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, at Villa-on-the-Lake in Conneaut.

She was born June 16, 1925, in Conneaut, Ohio, to Eva Marie McNeil and William Jarl Wilson. Eva, originally from Nanaimo, British Columbia, and William from Chicago settled in Conneaut and had four children: William and Mary Alice (both deceased), Joanne and Joseph. Joanne lost her mother at a young age and unfortunately only a few years later, her father died. When recalling her childhood Joanne remembers stories of the summer cottages they rented out, the swims out to the lighthouse and the fire that burnt down "Wilson's Cafe", her dad's tavern in the harbor.

During the war, Joanne moved to Erie, Pa., and worked at the General Electric. Her stint as a "Rosie the Riveter" gave her memories and friendships to help get through the dark days of the war. Shortly after the war, she was set up on a blind date with a young handsome guy just back from the Pacific front in the Navy, Ronald Westerburg, originally from Kane. Their triple date took them to a famous hot dog joint in Erie. (Known for its 8 hot dogs for a $1.00 special.) This momentous occasion was marked an odd success by the fact that Joanne was so doubtful about the outlook of the date, she didn't bother taking the pin curls out of her hair! Somehow they hit it off that night, because despite the evening ending with Joanne sitting on and crushing Ron's hat, they married the following January and remained so for 59 years. The couple had five children: Debrah, Vicki, Dan, Patti Jo and Toni. Unfortunately, to the sorrow of the couple, Patti Jo died in infancy.

The couple kept many close friends throughout the years, especially "The Club". Joanne was part of a group of female friends (formed in 1948) who met one Friday a month through most of their lives. These friends saw each other through the joys of childbirth, the sadness of miscarriages, lay-offs and financial ups and downs, divorces/separations, and eventually deaths. They met, played cards, snacked and shared the stories of their lives. This group of women and their families became an extension of family life so that breakfasts at the beach, camping trips and holiday celebrations were enriched. Joanne and Ron were fun and active parents who clearly enjoyed family life. The children grew up with aunts and uncles who cared for them and had the advantage of many, many cousins to share summer reunion adventures with. Joanne and Ron each had wonderful nieces and nephews that they were very fond of. Joanne also had sisters-in-law who were important to her: Lillian Westerburg, Carol Wilson and Elma Wilson.

All of these family and friends stepped up to support the family during the early 60's when Ron took a job on the DEW line and worked for several years on Barter Island, Alaska.  Except for Ron's short vacations home, Joanne had the total responsibility of parenting and dealing with all of the finances and household maintenance.

In 1965, the family moved to Ashtabula for Ron's work. Joanne eventually took a job at Carlisle’s in the China department and worked there for many years until Ron retired. She was a long-term member and supporter of the YMCA, even volunteering at the front desk for awhile. Joanne was a loyal and enthusiastic member of the morning aqua size class and credited her long health and good energy on those mornings filled with exercise and companionship.

The Westerburg clan settled in different places - Debrah with her partner George Peabody in eastern Canada; Vicki with Reno Alley in Florida; Dan with Kathy in Alaska and Toni who luckily enough, resettled here with Joe Simak in Conneaut. This afforded Joanne and Ron the opportunity to travel widely throughout North America but also have some family close by. They also spent many winter months keeping the cold at bay in Myrtle Beach.

They were fun loving and energetic parents and they were also caring grandparents to Luke Westerburg, Jacob Cramblit and the late Lacey Cramblit. In recent years, Joanne was fortunate to be reunited with and develop a caring relationship with her granddaughter, Valerie Hochschild. Great-grandchildren - Dezrae, Donte and Dilynne brought much love and laughter into their later years.

Her loving husband, Ron, died in October 2006 after a short illness. Eventually, Joanne sold the family house on Austinburg Road and moved to Willowbrook Village where she enjoyed the companionship of the friends she made there. In the years following Ron's death, she also received the support of her brother Joe.

Joanne Westerburg was a caring and intelligent woman with a good sense of humor even when times were difficult. On behalf of Joanne, the family would like to thank the many relatives and friends who have shown love, friendship and care over the years. Appreciation is also extended to the staff of the Hospice of the Western Reserve for their thoughtful care of Joanne and their commitment to communicating with the family through her recent illness. The family would also like to thank the Villa on the Lake for their welcoming environment and professional but caring attitude that helped immensely in this final part of Joanne's journey in life.

A Funeral Mass will be celebrated 10 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 8th, at Our Lady of Peace, the St. Joseph Worship Center, 3312 Lake Ave., Ashtabula, Ohio.

Calling Hours will be Wednesday, Nov. 7th, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Ashtabula Home of FLEMING & BILLMAN FUNERAL DIRECTORS, INC., 526 W. Prospect Road, Ashtabula. Family and friends are invited to a reception following the Funeral Mass at the church hall.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Hospice of the Western Reserve, 1166 Lake Ave., Ashtabula, Ohio 44004.

I'd like the memory of me to be a happy one. I'd like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done. I'd like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days. I'd like the tears of those who grieve, to dry before the sun of happy memories that I leave when life is done.