Cover photo for Joan L. Kobielus's Obituary
Joan L. Kobielus Profile Photo
1931 Joan 2023

Joan L. Kobielus

February 8, 1931 — October 3, 2023


Joan Louise Kobielus, 92, of Merrill, Wisconsin and Sun City, Arizona, passed away peacefully surrounded by her family on October 3rd, 2023 at her winter home in Sun City, AZ. 

A Celebration of Life will be held at 10 am, Saturday, October 14th at White Pine Pavilion in Bloomer, Wisconsin. Visitation will be from 10-11am with a Celebration Service at 11am.  Burial will follow at Auburn Cemetery, with lunch at White Pine Pavilion. Arrangements are being handled by Olson Funeral Home of Bloomer, Wisconsin. 

Joan was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin to Arthur W. and Freda A. (Stelter) Franz on February 8, 1931. She and her younger sister Barbara lived in and attended school in Bloomer, Wisconsin. Joan graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1953 with a Bachelor of Science in Education/Biology. Joan was a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority at UW-Madison and a member of the UW - Dolphins Synchronized Swim Team. 

Joan met the love of her life, Walter George Kobielus, during a college work summer at Everett’s Resort in Eagle River, WI.  Joan and Walt married on September 5, 1953 in Madison. After brief stays in Portage, Ladysmith and Park Falls, Walt’s profession as a pharmacist brought the family to warm and welcoming Merrill. 

Walt unexpectedly passed away in October 1962, leaving 31-year-old Joan to support four young children. Facing a world of uncertainty during a period when few women worked outside the home, Joan picked herself up, dusted herself off and began working for the Merrill Area Public School (MAPS) system as a substitute teacher. In her fierce dedication to providing the best she could for her children (eventually putting all four children through college), Joan began teaching full-time. She studied in summers and in her “free-time” to earn a Masters Degree in Education. Mrs. Kobielus became one of the most highly-regarded teachers in the MAPS system during her three decades-long career.  She wore many hats, including that of debate coach. Mrs. K was best known for being a favorite and best loved “English teacher.”  Mrs. K strongly believed in every student and encouraged the development of their unique capabilities and skills.

Joan K. loved to travel. She traveled the United States and the world extensively. When she wasn’t going to school to further her own education, she took every opportunity to travel the country with her family. She almost always drove, because “you can’t easily learn about a place if you fly over it.” She managed to cover the country - East to West and North to South, stopping at every…yes, EVERY educational Historical Marker, creating precious memories for all along the way. 

Joan adored Disney World, a favorite destination for her to take her off-spring. They visited dozens of times over the years. As recently as December, 2018, “Grandma Jo” hosted a week-long family Christmas vacation in Disney World that was attended by every single one of her kids, grandkids, and great-grandchildren (23 happy souls in all). 

Joan had many friends. She was an active member of multiple bridge clubs in Merrill and Sun City, Arizona; and in the Laureate Rho Chapter of the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority in Merrill. She honed artistic capabilities and creative skills with fellow craft club members in Wisconsin and Arizona creating art and gifts with her knitting, hardanger embroidery, needlepoint, zipper-art and other crafting. 

She was involved in Community Theater, loved swimming, water skiing and snow skiing. She supported international education, hosting an AFS exchange student from Turkey, and sending two daughters to Japan and Germany on the program. 

Joan was a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Merrill and volunteered at Holy Cross Hospital Gift Store. In her down time, she loved to read. 

Joan was preceded in death by husband, Walter Kobielus; parents, Arthur and Freda (Stelter) Franz, baby brother Richard Franz, sister Barbara Lederer and brother-in-law Kenneth Lederer. 

(Joan) is survived by her children: Pamela Kobielus of Sun City, AZ; Rebecca Deignan (Christopher) of Cary, IL; Susan Casper (Timothy) of Arlington Heights, IL, and John Kobielus (Mary Beth) of Merrill, WI.   

Her Grandchildren, Patricia Schroeder (John), Jamie Deignan, Kimberly Kane (Sean), Alexandra Gregory (David), Elizabeth Casper, Jax Kobielus and Timothy Deignan will miss Grandma Jo dearly.  

Great-Grandma Jo loved her 10 great-grandchildren: Colette and Calvin Schoeder; Owen & Morgan Deignan; Nolan, Nora and Eli Kane; Hudson and Coraline Gregory, and Lucas Deignan plus her 12 nieces/nephews; and 13 great nieces/nephews.  

Also mourning “Mom” is Joan’s hosted AFS exchange student (1977-1978) son Can Verdi of Istanbul, Turkey who attended Merrill Senior High School with her high-school-age children. 

Special friends and loved ones left behind include Kathy Bastian, Christina Deignan, Kaitlynn Smolen and Lois Wood.  AFS students’ “grandchildren” and their families in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Thailand were treasured people in her life. All are considered family.  

Friends and neighbors in Merrill, WI and Sun City and elsewhere will miss her.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to support the many superior education programs & opportunities offered by Merrill Area Public Schools (MAPS) or by the T.B. Scott Library’s Genealogy & Local History Room; or, to the American Kidney Fund.

The family wishes to extend our sincere thanks to Dr. Donald Evans (ret.), Dr. Hitpreet Sanghera, and Dr. Joseph Babiarz (ret.).

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Joan L. Kobielus, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, October 14, 2023

10:00 - 11:00 am (Central time)

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Funeral Service

Saturday, October 14, 2023

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

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Graveside Service

Saturday, October 14, 2023

12:15 - 12:30 pm (Central time)

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