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Tis the season to be thankful and count our blessings. One blessing Lancaster folks can number was Joan Hall Williams, better known as Jo Williams, or simply “Aunt Jo.”
She was a Lancaster treasure, something extra special about the Red Rose City.
Williams, who died at age 79 earlier this month, loved her home and showed so in many ways.
A history enthusiast, Williams was glad to share her knowledge about Lancaster. Often, she would provide history lessons about Lancaster and Lancaster County.
A retired educator, Williams was still teaching long after she left the classroom. She loved sharing her knowledge with anybody who would listen, and many did over the years.
The Mount Carmel AME Zion Church and its campground in southern Lancaster County, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was a project Williams undertook as she researched the history of Mount Carmel and the surrounding area.
Williams also led walking tours of downtown Lancaster and later helped create the “walking fans.” The hand-held fans, which are still available, feature facts about the historical downtown. These “walking fans” help people with self-guided tours.
“She wanted to include everybody and she understood how to do it,” said Sandy Nelson, who like Williams, enjoys history.
Williams loved to share her knowledge, but she was also about action.
She was a fixture at Lancaster City Hall, where she tended the rose gardens. It was her way of giving to the community.
Williams was all about reaching out. She did so by supporting city of Lancaster firefighters.
She often provided them with meals and her homemade cookies on Wednesday afternoons.
“Every Wednesday afternoon, you knew Aunt Jo was coming by,” Lancaster Fire Chief Chris Nunnery said. “We treated her like she was part of the department.”
Then, there was her church, Lancaster First Baptist, where she sang in the choir and served as the choir librarian.
First Baptist has a history of having an outstanding choir program.
Certain roles have to be played to make sure the music is of the highest quality. Williams was responsible for having the right materials in the choir members’ books.
“She was always looking to serve,” said Lancaster attorney Alston DeVenny, who sat next to Williams in the choir. “She was faithful.”
Lancaster is blessed because she was true to her town in so many ways.