October 16, 1931 - January 22, 2015
Evelyn JoAnn Hebertson Thomas, a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, and sister passed from this life on January 22, 2015, after valiantly enduring a lengthy illness. She will be remembered for her great zeal for life and learning, for her deep and abiding faith in God, for her love of beautiful and uplifting things, and for living a life that exuded the pure love of Christ in all her relationships. Exceptionally intelligent and articulate, JoAnn also had a gift for putting people at ease, helping them to feel important, and lifting their minds and souls in every interaction. JoAnn was born on October 16, 1931, to Lt. Col. Thorit Charles and Susan Elmina “Ella” Madsen Hebertson in Vineyard, Utah. She was the only daughter in their family that eventually consisted of seven children. As a child of the Depression, JoAnn learned to be resourceful, to appreciate life’s simple pleasures, and to be grateful for all blessings, no matter how small. At the outbreak of World War II, the family home was moved a short distance to the south from its original location on Geneva Road to make way for the construction of the Geneva Steel plant. Shortly afterward, her father was called into active military service, and the family moved to California where they spent the next four years in various locations, including Berkeley, Modesto, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Salinas. Though moving frequently and changing schools often during the war years was challenging, JoAnn loved California and the friends she gained there. A stalwart member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she always spoke fondly of her associations with friends of other faiths and admired their lives of conviction. These years were also marked by a lengthy and life-threatening illness of her father, who spent two years in military hospitals with a septic infection resulting from a ruptured appendix. JoAnn felt his eventual remarkable recovery was a testament to her family’s faith and came about in part due to her father’s lifelong careful observance of the Word of Wisdom, the Church’s law of health. Upon the family’s return to Vineyard at the conclusion of the war, JoAnn enrolled at Lincoln High School in Orem where she was a very successful and popular student. She graduated with honors in 1949, having been involved in student government, the Tigerettes, band and orchestra, and having been elected the school’s “Typical Girl.” She turned down a full scholarship to the University of Utah to attend Brigham Young University where she distinguished herself as an outstanding student, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average while holding a full-time job. During her undergraduate years, she also spent one term studying as a visiting student at the University of California—Berkeley, where she lived with her beloved aunt and uncle, Druzella and Afton Stout. JoAnn graduated summa cum laude in 1953 with a B.A. degree in English Literature and was immediately accepted in the BYU’s graduate program in English. During her graduate studies, she traveled to the University of South Carolina in Charleston where she completed original research for her master’s thesis, which focused on the southern poet Henry Timrod. She met her husband, John (Jack) Alfred Thomas, a fellow undergraduate student in an English class. She first caught Jack’s eye with her beautiful red hair and an apple green dress. She and Jack enjoyed a lengthy and pleasant courtship which included a year of Jack’s commuting from Coalville, Utah, where he had obtained a job as a high school English teacher. Jack and JoAnn married June 8, 1955, in the Salt Lake Temple. They welcomed twin daughters, Julianne and Janelle, in 1957, and shortly afterward they moved east to Greenbelt, Maryland, where Jack commenced doctoral studies at the University of Maryland in College Park. Their son, Karl, joined the family in 1959 during their student years in Maryland. JoAnn always spoke fondly of their time in the East, loving both the cultural and historical richness of the region and the simple pleasures of family life. Upon completion of his Ph.D., Jack was appointed to the English Department faculty at BYU and the family returned to Utah Valley in 1962. They built a home in the Pleasant View First Ward in Provo in 1963, where they remained permanently thereafter. The family welcomed another daughter, Alexandra, that summer as well. Their fifth and final child, Stephen, was born in 1967. In 1968-69, Jack took a sabbatical leave from the university, and the family decided to spend a year in Bogotá, Colombia, where Jack taught at the Centro Colombo-Americano Binational Center. JoAnn home schooled all of her children during that year and further instilled in them a love for learning that she so abundantly possessed. As an outstanding writer, JoAnn provided editorial assistance to many writers of graduate theses and dissertations. She also taught writing courses part-time for BYU on occasion, but her work as a wife and mother in the home was her most important priority and greatest joy. She was an exceptionally supportive parent and nurtured her family with consummate care. She served in civic capacities as well, heading PTA organizations at her children’s schools, judging numerous Provo City School District Spelling Bees, and serving as president of the Ralph Woodward Chorale, among other such roles. JoAnn served faithfully in many Church callings during her life, including Ward Choir Director, Young Women’s President, and Relief Society President. Her church work had a life-changing effect on many she served, led, or mentored. She was called to serve on the Church’s General Curriculum Writing Committee for ten years during which she assisted in writing lesson manuals for the Young Women and Relief Society. She served a volunteer service mission at the Missionary Training Center, on a temple mission with Jack in the Villahermosa Mexico Temple, and as an ordinance worker in the Provo Temple. JoAnn was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers Keith, Val, and Leon Hebertson, and a daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Thomas. She is survived by her husband Jack, children Julianne Thomas Blickfeldt (Bradey), Janelle Thomas Martin (Tom), Karl Thomas (Elizabeth, deceased), Alexandra Thomas Dixon (David), and Stephen Thomas (Susan), 15 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren with another due in May. Grandchildren: Deborah Blickfeldt Buckner (Ben); Scott Blickfeldt, Stephanie Blickfeldt Willmore (Brent), Gregory Blickfeldt; Charles Martin (Annette), Allison Martin Peterson (Chris), Ashley Martin Stubbs (Sam), Angela Martin; Andrea Dixon Reed (John), Kevin Dixon (dear friend, Angela), Lauren Dixon; Anne Thomas, Emily Thomas, Benjamin Thomas, and Clara Thomas. Great-Grandchildren: Whitney, Lily, and Owen Buckner; Charlie, Henry, and Elizabeth Martin; John, Tanner, Will, Brooke, Holly, and Andrew Peterson; and Martin, Eve, and Esther Stubbs. Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m., Thursday, January 29, 2015, at the Pleasant View 1st Ward Chapel, 650 East Stadium Avenue, Provo, Utah. Friends may call at the church Wednesday, January 28, from 6-8:00 p.m. and Thursday from 10-10:45 a.m. prior to services. Interment, Provo City Cemetery. Condolences may be sent online at www.bergmortuary.com.
Evelyn JoAnn Hebertson Thomas, a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, and sister passed from this life on January 22, 2015, after valiantly enduring a lengthy illness. She will be remembered for her great zeal for life and learning, for... View Obituary & Service Information
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