Jo Nell Thomas Hales

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Jo Nell Thomas Hales

Birmingham, AL

Jo Nell Thomas Hales, affectionately known as "Jo", was born October 28, 1935 in Brookhaven, MS to Annie Louisa and James Grady Thomas. She spent her youth in Jackson, MS. Her father was an educator and wanted his children to have a top-notch education and that resulted in the family moving to Jackson, MS. After graduating from Central High School in Jackson, Jo earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics from Mississippi State College for Women. During her undergraduate years, she was involved in numerous activities, with one of her most enjoyable being the Jesters. Following graduation, she left Mississippi to attend Traphage School of Fashion in NYC. Upon graduation from Traphage, she moved to LaMarque, TX, where she taught Home Economics at the local high school. Jo returned to Mississippi and settled in Hattiesburg where she and Graham raised their three daughters.

During these years, Jo received her Master's degree in Early Childhood Development from the University of Southern Mississippi. There she enjoyed her church, friends, Junior Auxiliary, working as a Doncaster representative for 20 years, and founded a successful stationery business which was later passed on to her daughters. She moved to Birmingham, AL, in 2003 to be near her daughters and grandchildren. New friendships were formed at Mountain Brook Baptist Church, especially in the Torchbearers Sunday School class as well as numerous missions groups including Builders for Christ, the Medical Missions Apartment Ministry, Salvation Army, and the Discovery Clubs of Alabama.

Jo considered Camp DeSoto her home away from home, spending many years there as a counselor and teacher/minister. As head of arts and crafts, her wealth of knowledge in Home Economics was put to extraordinary use. One of her favorite endeavors was to cook for friends and shower them with creative gifts throughout her entire life.

Jo is survived by her brother, James Claude (Karen) Thomas, Norman, OK, Graham Lee Hales, Jr., Hattiesburg, MS; her three loving daughters: Lauren (Chuck) Welden, Anne-Murray (Lant) Cotten, both of Birmingham, Jeramy (David) Neill of Fairhope, AL; eleven grandchildren: Mary Allison Welden, Evie Welden (Lee) Johnsey, Charles V. (Jordyn) Welden, IV, John Grady Thomas Welden, Thomas Graham (Laura) Cotten, Mary Lant Cotten, Lauren Frances Cotten, Elizabeth Eloise Cotten, Annie Elizabeth Neill, John Thomas Neill and William "Billy" Hales Neill. Jo had two great-grandchildren, Mac and Meme Johnsey.

Jo passed on January 15, 2014. A memorial service will be held Monday, January 20 at 3:00 p.m. at Mountain Brook Baptist Church. The family will receive friends at 2:00 p.m. in Hudson Hall. Donations may be made to The Salvation Army or Builders for Christ through Mountain Brook Baptist Church. Johns-Ridout's Funeral Parlors, Birmingham, AL, in charge of arrangements.

Published in the Hattiesburg American on Jan. 18, 2014
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