Jo Claire Jones Gissel, beloved wife, mother, grandmother and friend, left this world to join her maker on the 1st of May, 2014, thus ending a valiant struggle against breast cancer that lasted over 30 years. She was born on the 14th of March, 1939, in Shreveport, Louisiana, to Jodie and Gladys Sconyers Jones, both of whom predeceased her. She graduated from C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport in 1957 and graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1961. As a freshman at SMU, she pledged Pi Beta Phi Sorority. On February 26th, 1960, Jo Claire met her future husband, L. Henry Gissel, Jr., on a blind date to see Bob Hope's first performance on the SMU campus. Henry and Jo Claire fell in love on their first date, and Jo Claire began spending much of her time thereafter at Law School activities. She was elected Miscarrige of Justice for the SMU Law School in the spring of 1961 before she and Henry received their respective BA and LLB degrees.|
Jo Claire genuinely loved people. She was devoted to her family and friends. She shared her great culinary talent whenever a friend was ill or suffered some loss. She was a gracious hostess and put on numerous parties in her various homes. Her wine tasting parties at her home on Pelham Drive were the highlight of many law firm recruiting seasons.
Jo Claire and Henry were married on the 4th of March, 1962, in Shreveport while Henry was on active duty in the Army. They began their married lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, while Henry was attending the JAGC School. They then moved to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, for the rest of Henry's active tour. They returned to Houston and Henry began his 43 year career at the law firm then known as Fulbright, Crooker, Freeman, Bates & Jaworski. Although licensed as an elementary school teacher (teaching on four short occasions), Jo Claire was first and foremost a full-time wife, mother, grandmother, and helpmate to her husband's career. She loved to travel, and she often went with Henry on his professional trips. She particularly enjoyed the many friends she made at ACTEC meetings and treasured memories of the five European barge trips she and Henry took with ACTEC friends. She loved cruising and Hawaii (which she visited over forty times) as well as earlier driving trips in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Jo Claire was outgoing and engaging. She loved her Pi Phi sisters and was active in Pi Phi alumni affairs. She was a Bluebird, a member of the Assistance League, the Blossom Club, the breakfast club, and was an enthusiastic bridge player with a number of groups. Together with Henry, she was a member of River Oaks Country Club and the Forest Club, and a number of dance clubs, including Sarabande, Paul Jones and the 100 Dance Club. Raised as a Methodist, she joined the Episcopal Church while in college and was a member of St. Martin's Episcopal Church at time of her death, where she was active in the Altar Guild and participated in various Bible study groups.
Known as "Peppi" to her grandchildren, she is survived by her husband of more than 52 years, L. Henry Gissel, Jr.; her daughters, Virginia Claire Gissel Schwanauer (and husband, Stephan) and Julia Sconyers ("Scottie") Gissel; her son, Lewis H. Gissel III (and wife, Amy); her four grandchildren, August Julia and Claire Elizabeth Schwanauer, L. Henry, IV and Francis Elizabeth ("Lizzie") Gissel; her brother, Jodie Sconyers ("Scotty") Jones (and wife, Susu); niece, Ashley Jones Guglielmo (and husband, Carey); and nephew, Jodie S. Jones, Jr; and her beloved housekeeper of more than 30 years, Benigna ("Nina") Espinoza.
The memorial service will be conducted at three o'clock in the afternoon, on Monday, the 5th of May, at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, 717 Sage Road in Houston, where the Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr., Rector and the Rev. Mary Wilson, Senior Associate Rector for Pastoral Care, are to officiate.
A celebration and reception honoring Jo Claire's memory will take place at a location to be announced during the service.
At a later date, the family will gather for a private inurnment at Glenwood Cemetery.
In lieu of customary remembrances, memorial contributions in Jo Claire's name may be directed to one of the following organizations: St Martin's Episcopal Church Holiday Outreach Program, 717 Sage Rd., Houston, TX 77056; Houston Pi Beta Phi Foundation, 9668 Westheimer Rd., Ste 200 #95, Houston, TX 77063; St John's School, 2401 Claremont Lane, Houston, TX 77019; ACTEC Foundation, 901 15th St. NW, Ste 525, Washington D.C. 200059
Published in Houston Chronicle from May 2 to May 4, 2014