Joan Mithus Wells

Wells, Joan Mithus At age 94, Joan died peacefully in her sleep at St. John's on the Lake on August 5, 2013. She died of old age. Joan leaves behind her loving son, K. Richard Wells. Additionally she leaves behind Richard's former wife, M. Susanna Fry of Kenosha, who Joan regarded as the daughter she never had, Susanna's children, who Joan regarded as grandchildren, Michael Thompson of Kenosha, Wisconsin and Christina A. Thompson of Brooklyn, New York. Joan was an only child of Dr. Edward J. Mithus and Tora Mithus (nee Whetelson). Joan was born on August 24, 1918 in Stoughton, Wisconsin. She grew up in Mt. Horeb, WI, and played the flute in the High School Band where she won a variety of statewide competitions. Joan graduated from Mt. Horeb High School as the class Val Victorian and from there went on to The University of Wisconsin (Madison) where she graduated summa cum laude in 1940 with a BA Degree in English education and speech. She went on to teach in the Madison school system. Joan met her husband, Marv Wells, when he was in Medical School also at UW. They were married on June 18, 1943, shortly after Marv graduated with his M.D. degree from UW. Shortly after their marriage, Marv volunteered for the U.S. Army and was assigned to a hospital in Helena, Montana. While in Helena their only son, Richard, was born. After the war, Joan and Marv moved to Milwaukee where they lived until 1984. Joan became influentially associated with the Great Books of The Western World Program where she was a leader for over forty years. Joan enjoyed a lifelong commitment to fine art and music. She played the piano her entire adult life and would pick up the flute on occasion when asked. Joan's entry into the pictorial art world came with a beginning adult education class with Fred Berman. In 1959, she was introduced to Sister Thomasita of Cardinal Stritch University and began adult classes with Sister that she continued for many years, creating a vast array of different artwork. In 1971 Joan decided she needed a more rigorous and formal education in art and art history. She was awarded a Master of Arts in May of 1975 from The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and went on to teach art history at the Layton School of Art. Joan was a prolific fiber artist (weaver), a water colorist, an oil painter, a knitter of Norwegian sweaters and a writer. She loved writing books about her life experiences, cogent observations all illustrated with her paintings and drawings. Joan and Marv moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1984 after Marv's retirement from his general practice. Joan continued her lifelong passion with art concentrating on weaving and painting. After Marv died in 2004, she chose to move back to Milwaukee where she had spent the vast majority of her adult life and joined the vibrant and loving senior community of St. John's on the Lake. She continued painting and writing, publishing her last book in December of 2012, Toward Heaven's Gate, a book about the houses, she had lived in and loved during her life and some of her memorable experiences associated with those homes. Joan always told people with great pride that she was a "depression kid" and believed that if you could make it through the depression you would survive and thrive. Joan was of 100% Norwegian heritage resulting in a very heavy dose of Viking DNA. She spoke and read Norwegian. She was a true renaissance person in that she had read all of the Great Books, wrote her Master's thesis, Degas' Bathers, on the paintings and drawings of Edgar Degas' bathers. Besides English, she spoke French, Italian, and Norwegian. She was well traveled and had hundreds of friends all over the world. She maintained a lifelong intellectual and personal relationship with her college roommate, Shirley Windward, the founder of the Windward School in Santa Barbara, California. Later in life she had become friends with Wanda Beals, founder of the Milwaukee School of Massage and among many other friends with Bonnie Blair and Tony Busalacchi who were fellow artists and residents of St. John's. Joan was a lifelong Lutheran and was a member of Mt. Horeb Lutheran Church and Messiah Lutheran Church in Albuquerque, NM. She will be greatly missed by her son, her close and extended family and all of her friends. Richard wishes to give special thanks to Dr. Andrew McGown of Columbia St. Mary's Hospital who insured Joan was given the best medical care of her life; Erica Stoving her primary day nurse; Anne Fleury, her primary social worker who managed to keep Richard in line and all of the caring, compassionate, fine and often unheralded workers at St. John's on the Lake. Family will greet friends on Saturday, August 10, from 3:00 to 4:00 PM at St. John's on the Lake, 1840 N. Prospect Avenue, Milwaukee, followed by a Memorial Service celebrating Joan's life at 4:00 PM with a reception to follow. Interment will take place at Mt. Horeb Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials in Joan's name may be made to the Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 North Art Museum Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53202.

Funeral Home

2025 East Capitol Drive  Shorewood, WI 53211
(414) 962-8383

Published in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel from Aug. 7 to Aug. 8, 2013