Jo Ann Pearce Bowline was born just a minute after midnight on July 23, 1938, in the Selma Baptist Hospital on Riverview Avenue to Ann and Doak Pearce (they lived in Wilcox County at the time). She was named after her father’s daddy, Joseph, and her mother’s mother, Annie. (In notes about her life, she joked, “Thank God I wasn’t named Jo Annie!”) Almost six years after Jo Ann arrived, her family welcomed her only sibling, sister Jane Maree. The family lived almost entirely in the same area of Alabama except for a brief time up in Columbia City, Indiana, where her father trained Tennessee Walking Horses. Jo Ann enjoyed growing up in the country, riding a horse over to friends’ houses to play, hanging out with her cousins, especially Bert and “Bootsie.”
She attended school in Catherine and graduated from Wilcox High School in 1956. She went on to take general education courses at Livingston State from 1956-58 majoring in business, with additional instruction at another local business school in ’58.
She married to Carl Bowline of Selma on April 20, 1958, at the Safford Baptist Church by Rev. E.B. Warren, the same pastor who married her parents in the same church. She set out to be the best wife ever and later, the best mom (daughter Key was born in 1959 and son Carl Jr. (“Bo”) was born in 1969). Carl’s career with IBM (he joined the company in 1958 and they lived in Montgomery for a time) took them all over the country: to Virginia; back to Alabama; Cocoa Beach, Florida (right across the street from the sand during the early days of the space program); Greenbelt, Maryland; Houston, Texas; Thousand Oaks, California; Lompoc, California; Georgetown, Texas; and Brookfield, Connecticut. In the late 1980s, Carl took early retirement from “Big Blue” and he, Jo Ann and Bo planned their move “home” to Selma. (By that time, Key had finished college in California and had begun her career, staying out west.) As the moving truck was packing their things for the southern trek, Carl was in the hospital, diagnosed with lung cancer. Even so, they did get to enjoy some time together in Selma before his passing in October 1990.
With every move, Jo Ann made friends fast. She always made contact with the newcomers’ clubs and Welcome Wagon, and set out to meet the neighbors. She would get involved in those groups, too, helping welcome others (she was VP of one such group in Connecticut). Up until 1982, her outside-the-home efforts revolved around anything the schools needed. She volunteered with the PTA, assisted teachers in tutoring students who needed extra help in English and math, and was a member of a committee that reevaluated subject matters for school and the way those were taught. She was on the parent/student/administration committee that planned her daughter’s high school graduation and at one point, she became “Coach Jo Ann,” coaching Bo’s soccer team. Neither Bo nor Key can remember a time when their mom wasn’t at one of their games cheering them on (something she loved doing for her grandchildren as well).
In the fall of 1982, Jo Ann became an assistant for the Georgetown, Texas, public library and upon their move to Brookfield, Connecticut, she got a job as a teller at the Connecticut National Bank branch in Bethel. As with every new task, she dove in and took on more than the basic job description, learning new skills along the way. When they moved to Selma, she got a part-time teller position with Altus Bank and about a year later, became full-time, eventually becoming the new accounts/savings rep. When the banking industry suffered its downturn with closings and consolidations, Jo Ann took on her greatest challenge (1994): Executive Director of Sabra Sanctuary, a shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children.
She had always made a difference in her family and others’ lives, but at Sabra, she excelled in facing and tackling the challenges faced in helping those suffering from domestic violence. She stepped outside of her comfort zone and pushed herself to learn new things. She prepared the annual budget, solicited donations from the community, wrote grant applications, spoke on TV, ran charitable auctions, went to court and countless other things to help the women and their children.
She retired from Sabra Sanctuary in 2004 and not long after that, took on a part-time job with Healthlink, a service organization which helps people of limited means get access to prescription medications and health services with clinics like “Doc on the Bus” and vision care.
The clients she met became her friends as she advocated on their behalf and her coworkers loved her as much as her family.
Back to her immediate family, her daughter Key married Jay Snodgress in 1987 and had two daughters, Kimberly and Carolyn. Living in California, they couldn’t see each other as much as they liked, but there were trips back and forth for visits. As the Snodgress girls went to college, they came to the South (Kimberly to AUM and then on to Auburn; Carolyn to Belmont in Nashville) and had the great blessing of being able to spend time with their grandma (nicknamed “JoMama”) and introducing their friends to this remarkable and fun lady.
Jo Ann’s son Carl stayed in Selma (attending and graduating from AUM), married the love of his life, Julie Williams, and started a family. They would live next door to Jo Ann and welcomed two boys, Whitt and Walt, who she adored. She was their “Jojo” and her house was a daily visit for them as they’d come over to hang out and tell her that they loved her. She often picked them up from school and helped get friends of theirs home, too.
Simply put, unassuming as she was, Jo Ann made a difference, not only to the lives of her friends and family, but to too many people to count, especially through her work at Sabra Sanctuary and Healthlink. Throughout her life, she had a strong sense of who she was – what you saw was what you got with Jo Ann – and she faced hardship with courage. When Carl Sr. had his battle with cancer, she was by his side and learned to face and embrace life without him after his passing. When her knees needed replacing, she took that in stride. Even cancer was going to find a lot of fight from Jo Ann who was determined to beat it … no question. She tackled each treatment of radiation and chemo like a trooper, ticking the remaining sessions off one by one as she headed toward the finish line. Covid’s ugly interruption before Christmas took some of the wind out of her sails, but she did the best she could, battling intense fatigue and the loss of smell/taste. Throughout, Jo Ann’s mind stayed sharp. Unfortunately, complications related to cancer and Covid proved too much for her body and she passed under the compassionate care of the doctors and nurses at the Vaughan Regional Medical Center.
She is also a former board member of the Selma/Dallas County Historical Society and a former member of the Selma Kiwanis Club. In her spare time, she was an avid reader and crossword puzzle worker and loved to play bridge. She truly loved card games and beating her children and grandchildren at them as well as at backgammon. She cooked the best fried chicken (and it may be that the secret ingredient was love). Jo Ann was a fierce and loyal friend and stayed in touch with the many people she met all over the country. She was candid and told you what she felt you needed to know. Sometimes that meant giving advice and sometimes that meant straightening you out. Simply stated: there weren’t any false airs with Jo Ann…she was as genuine a person as you’d ever meet. She was loving and sweet, fun and feisty and really enjoyed her life.
Jo Ann is survived by her daughter Key Snodgress, her husband Jay, their daughters Kimberly and Carolyn; her son Carl, his wife Julie and their two sons Whitt and Walt; her sister Jane Maree Nettles and husband Jimmy; numerous cousins, nieces, nephews and their children; as well as many, many friends. In lieu of flowers, the family wishes donations be made to any local charity in her name. With concern for everyone’s health and safety in this time of Covid, the family will postpone a celebration of her life until sometime this summer.
Condolences and memories may be sent to the family by visiting www.lawrencebrownservice.com. Mrs. Bowline and her family are in the care of Lawrence Brown-Service Funeral Home, 2900 Citizens Parkway, Selma, Alabama; (334) 872-2301.