June 22, 1934 - December 5, 2021
Jo Ellen Peacock Willes, beloved mother, grandmother and friend stepped into glory on December 5th, 2021 at home in Colorado. Born on June 22, 1934 in Thomasville, Georgia, she grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. Her Daddy, Robert Howell Peacock of Pavo, was a veteran postman and her Mama, Vallie Mae Hancock of Thomasville, established a private elementary school, Mama Peacock’s School. Jo Ellen, their second daughter, enjoyed the elegance of ballroom dresses as much as she loved to climb trees. She wore bright red braids, and to say she wasn’t easily deterred was an understatement. For High School, she attended Andrew Jackson, which in the 50’s had a highly esteemed marching band. She longed to join, but upon approaching the director learned the only instrument he lacked was the tuba. Gracious, but undaunted, she took the bad news as a challenge, learned the tuba, and with her 110 pound frame, joined the marching band. This tenacity, both beautiful and fiery, much like her bright red hair, was the fortitude with which she approached the entirety of her life. Also a captivating performer, she was known for her dramatic monologues, an art she continued late in life. She attended the University of Florida where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and a minor in Elementary Education. While attending the University of Florida, she fell in love with Richard Errol Willes of Ft. Pierce, Florida. The couple married on her birthday, June 22nd, 1957 after Richard’s Naval Academy graduation. Deeply devoted to youth both then and throughout her life, the couple spent a part of their honeymoon at Birdwood College– now Thomas University– where Jo Ellen directed the Primitive Baptist Youth Camps. Richard’s military career as a professor at the Air Force Academy quickly relocated them to Colorado where she enjoyed mountain adventures, especially skiing, as much as she had loved picking up shells on the beach. Their military life granted brilliant highs including the birth of their four children, as well as harrowing lows notwithstanding the Vietnam War where Jo Ellen, with poise and unflinching courage, led not only her children, but military wives through the uncertainties of war as President of the Officers Wive’s Club. When life brought hardship and she needed to put food on the table she drew upon that early tenacity returned to school and became a licensed insurance agent, establishing Heritage Insurance Agency. In addition, she owned and managed rental properties all in an effort to provide for her family. She incorporated her love for plants and her God-given ability to make anything thrive to create The Joshua Tree, a landscaping and interior plantscaping business. After moving to Georgia, her gardens were annually visited by hundreds of students for Butterfly Classes where families could watch the metamorphosis of a caterpillar and the flight of the butterfly. She used this brilliant display to teach about the transformation of a life entrusted to Jesus’ mercy and love. Her greatest love in all the earth was her Savior. She poured over His Word. She loved to worship Him in song, on the piano and with her most unique ability to whistle as beautifully as any flautist upon the flute. Her greatest passion was finding ways to share Him with the stranger on the street, a child that caught her eye, or while praying with a friend. She was deeply impacted by the Biblical text about Esther. In her later years, she wrote and performed a dramatic retelling of the story as a wise and older Esther to awaken faith in every generation. She would remind; “We have been created for such a time as this” and encouraged audiences that no matter what a day holds, “God has a destiny for your life that will blow your mind.” Lessons she learned through her mountain highs and valley lows spurred her on to stand faithfully with others who gleaned from her wisdom. Learning and applying different Biblically based heart healing modalities and comforting wherewith she had been comforted, she walked with many sons and daughters on their journey of faith. Her prayers that were sown in faith will continue to bring forth transformation, even though Jo Ellen’s journey is complete. She has fought the good fight. She has finished the race. She has taken flight. She is with her King. Preceding her in death is her husband, Dr. Richard Errol Willes and her beloved sister Alice Caroline Eddins. She is survived by her four children whom she loved with all her being: Robert Errol Willes (Anne), Leslie Jennifer Martz (Todd), Tylan Richard Willes, Jodi Alison Russell (Lee); her eleven grandchildren who called her Mimi: Stephanie (Stewart), Hunter, Audrey (Zeb), Hannah, Andrew (Destiny), Dima, Christopher, Jonathan, Joshua, Micah, Rachel; three great grandsons: Barrett, David, Vinnie; and more spiritual sons and daughters than can be named. The celebration of Jo Ellen’s life will be on Sunday, January 9, 2022, at 2 p.m. at New Covenant Church, Thomasville, Georgia following a family ceremony at Fredonia Baptist Church Cemetery. Celebrate your memories with flowers or donations to either of Jo Ellen’s treasured ministries. High Flight Foundation, where Jo Ellen served on the Board for 25 years (https://www.highflightfoundation.org/contact#donate PO Box 1029, Bradenton, FL 35206) or Charles Carrin Ministries founded by her beloved cousin who impacted her life, the lives of her children, and the lives of her caretakers deeply (P.O. Box 800, Boynton Beach, Florida 33425).
Jo Ellen Peacock Willes, beloved mother, grandmother and friend stepped into glory on December 5th, 2021 at home in Colorado. Born on June 22, 1934 in Thomasville, Georgia, she grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. Her Daddy, Robert Howell Peacock... View Obituary & Service Information
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