Jo-An Marie Atkins

Obituary
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1929 - 2013

Born December 22, 1929, in Great Falls, MT Jo-An Atkins went to heaven to be with Jesus on Tuesday, September 17, 2013. The daughter of Bill and Icelene Englund, she grew up in Big Sandy, MT, played Coronet in the school band and, during wartime, worked in her Dad's Texaco station before the family moved to Van Nuys, CA in 1944. While attending Van Nuys High she met Billy H. "Red" Atkins. Terrific dancers, they courted, bopping to Big Bands at venues across California. Billy proposed to Jo-An in romantic fashion near "The Falls" in Bouquet Canyon. They married September 15, 1949, in Van Nuys, CA.

Bill and Jo-An's 62 years of marriage was a testament to her resourcefulness and resilience as the family moved many times. Jo-An was an Air Force bride early in their marriage, then fireman's wife as Billy advanced on to drive fire engines for LA County. The family moved to Saugus, CA in 1966, and then into their home nestled under one of the largest Oak Trees in Newhall in 1972. While raising their three children, Nancy, Billy, and Dusty, Jo-An finished her Bachelor's degree in Education at The Master's College and became an excellent teacher, starting at Sulphur Springs Elementary in the fall of 1968. Mrs. Atkins engendered potential in thousands of students while at Mitchell Elementary School, before retiring in 1984.

She volunteered for her children's youth groups, her local church, the Red Hatters and more. She prized outings with Valencia Women's Connection, the Shriner's, Daughters of the Nile, Jesters and Jesterettes, etc. She loved going with family to the Pismo Beach Dixieland Jazz Festival, parading with sparkling umbrellas. Jo-An will always be remembered for her hand-crafted needlework nametags, her love for games, and her expertise at Scrabble and crossword puzzles. Mostly though, she will be remembered for her optimism, encouraging words, tireless giving, caring for her loved ones and many, many friends who will miss her Christmas letters, most using poetry to describe the previous years' accomplishments.

Through her passion for historical research she found her voice as a "story-teller", developing and presenting "in character" famous personalities at the Santa Clarita Senior Center in Newhall, retirement communities, and other venues throughout the Southland. The consummate teacher, she performed as Sacagawea, Betsy Ross, Martha Washington, Mary Todd Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, a lady clown, and Mrs. Santa Claus, to name a few. She delighted audiences young and old for years with her enthusiastic portrayals.

As a couple and with family she traveled extensively across the US and the globe. Ever thoughtful and always generous she drew excitement from careful selection of "the perfect gift" for birthdays, Christmas etc. Jo-An was an innately loving and nurturing mother whose husband Billy preceded her to heaven in 2011.

She is survived by her children: Nancy Atkins-Klein, B.J. (Jeannie) Atkins, Dusty Atkins, and Mark Sheard; siblings: Sandy (Sal) Sciortino and Will A. Englund; grandchildren: Erik H. Klein, Richard (April) Klein, Holly Leean Atkins, Joey Bravo, Johnny (Loriane) Bravo, Ray (Karen) Klein; Juan, Shetara and Sebastian Sheard. Jo-An has two great grandsons: Harrison and Jack Klein (Richard), with two more due in early 2014 as April and Loriane are both with child; nieces and nephews include Marith Englund-Levers, Salvatore (Patty) Sciortino, Tony Sciortino, Michael Englund, Kathryn Englund, Billy Jenkins (Cheryl), Greg Jenkins (Michele), Mark Jenkins (Roxie), Layne Wheeler (Barbara), Jan Wheeler-Shiells (Dan).

A celebration of the life of Jo-An Atkins will be held Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. at South Valley Church, 24551 Valley Street, Newhall, CA 91321. All are welcome. In lieu of flowers, please feel free to send a kind donation in her memory to any of the following: South Valley Church, Santa Clarita Senior Center, Shriner's Hospitals, or the Cure Alzheimer's Fund.

The Signal, October 13, 2013
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Published on October 13 to October 19, 2013
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