Remembering Jo Ann Minner, who lived a life of service in Berkeley

Jo Ann Minner, who died age 90, on Dec. 9, 2018

Jo Ann Minner, 1928-2018

Jo Ann Minner died unexpectedly of a stroke on Dec. 9, 2018 in Berkeley, CA, exactly one week after joyously celebrating her 90th birthday with her large family and closest friends. 

Jo Ann Austin was born in Dallas, TX, but her family returned to California when she was three, and she spent most of the next 87 years in Berkeley. 

A Berkeley High School graduate, she attended UC Berkeley as an English Major and was just units away from graduation when pregnancy and her husband’s recall to service during the Korean war forced her to take leave. Although she never returned to university, she was an avid reader and impressed all who knew her with her keen intellect and articulate wit.

 Jo Ann’s primary occupation was as a mother of five children. However, she was also very involved in politics, working on a great number of campaigns. At one time, she went door to door to convince community members to support integrating the Berkeley schools through busing. 

In addition, she spent time working at Berkeley City Hall with Leo Bach. She served as the North East Berkeley Association (NEBA) president for many years, and remained involved in community, country, and world affairs throughout her life.

In 1950, Jo Ann married Ridgeway Harrison, and they had three daughters. After Ridge died in 1958, Jo Ann married Richard Minner. Jo Ann and Dick spent the next 42 years together raising four daughters and one son, traveling, staying involved in politics, going to the opera, drinking Minner martinis, and enjoying the company of their many friends. They were engaged members of the Berkeley Co-op, with Dick taking a turn as president.

Jo Ann was a brilliant pianist (a ragtime master!), and a talented writer. She was the accompanist for a local ladies’ chorus for over a decade and after retiring from that position volunteered to play at local nursing homes. When her children were young, she was a Girl Scout leader. Her life was one of service. She taught her children by example to love and help all kinds of people.

Jo Ann is survived by her five children, twelve grandchildren, one sister, and several nieces and nephews. Her ashes will be scattered at sea in late January. A Celebration of Life will be held on Jan. 26 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley at 2 p.m.

Jo Ann was an exceptional human being, a wonderful friend, and an incredible, supportive, loving mom and grandmother. We will miss her vivacious personality and loving presence.