Science has shown that music and lyrics endure in the human mind even after memory begins to fade. On December 12, 2018, God’s choir received a new, angelic voice, a voice free from the limitations of Alzheimer’s disease and a voice beloved by friends and family around the world.
Joanne was the youngest of 10 children and the only girl. A lifelong learner, Joanne attended Notre Dame in Belleville, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana, and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale where she obtained her master’s degree. For nearly four decades, Joanne taught primary grades and gifted education in Belleville School District #118, often starting classes with a song and using music to teach concepts like the layout of a computer keyboard.
As a longtime coach and coordinator for the Odyssey of the Mind school program, Joanne became the program’s Illinois Association Director and lead educational expert at the global level, linking creative education to team initiatives for participants around the world. The “Joanne M. Rompel Living the Creative Life Award” was named in her honor and is awarded each year to individuals who work to bring creative educational opportunities to young minds throughout the state of Illinois.
In addition to serving as president of her teacher’s union and leading summer computer camps for children, Joanne even served as the local director of the Sweet Adeline’s singing group, yet another example of the important role music played in her life’s symphony. Joanne’s passion for computers and programming, a self-taught skill that she imparted to young minds using mechanical Legos run by coded applications, predated the modern coding trend by 25 years–Joanne was always several steps ahead but dedicated to bringing others along for the journey. Even after she retired, Joanne continued to work in education, engaging in one-on-one mentoring with teachers in East St. Louis for the state of Illinois. From her decades of teaching, being state director for Illinois and Indiana Odyssey of the Mind, and mentoring new educators throughout Illinois, Joanne’s work shaped the lives of thousands of students, many of whom considered her a mom, grandma, mentor, and guardian angel.
Despite keeping a busy schedule, Joanne also loved reading, the challenge of fishing, the even greater challenge of shopping for a good sale and camping every now and then to “recharge.” Joanne, a true believer in God, would often remind people how blessed they were, including herself. Her goal was to make a difference in the lives of each and every person she met without expecting anything in return. From weekend workdays to sleepless nights, countless miles driven to a not-so-retired retirement, Joanne lived her life to the fullest to ensure that others’ lives were more fulfilled. That was her reward, however miraculously she seemed to fit it all in and always making sure her family was her top priority.
Joanne Rompel was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, coach, mentor, teacher, and friend to people all over the world. Although she is no longer with us on this earth, her song lives on in the hearts of her family, friends, colleagues, and students. Her music still plays, her lyrics endure, for there are few songs as sweet as Joanne Rompel.
Joanne is preceded in death by her parents, Joseph “Mac” Cullen and Ann, nee Johnson, Cullen; and eight of her brothers, Paul Koste, Raymond Koste, Walter Koste, Alvin Koste, Fritz Cullen, Edward Cullen, Jerry Cullen, and Joey Cullen.
She is survived by her husband, caretaker, best friend, and lifelong partner of 61 years, Robert “Bob” Rompel of Belleville, IL, who never left her side when Joanne’s health began to decline;
her two daughters, Gerry (Gary) Davidson of Smithton, IL, and Patty (Stacy) Pickering of Smithton, IL;
her twin brother, James (Nettie) Cullen of Plano, TX;
her only, and as she always said her favorite grandson, Robert “Bobby” Davidson of Belleville, IL;
her great-grandson, Alexander Hughes;
and many cousins, nephews, nieces, and dear friends.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Illinois Knowledge Quest, Inc. c/o Odyssey of the Mind. Condolences may be expressed to the family online at www.rennerfh.com.
Visitation: Friends may visit from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday, December 16, 2018, at George Renner and Sons Funeral Home, Belleville, IL.
Funeral: A funeral procession will leave at 9:30 a.m. Monday, December 17, 2018, from the funeral home for a 10 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, Belleville, IL, with Father Matt Elie officiating. A reception and celebration of Joanne’s life for friends and family will then take place at Queen of Peace Hall.
Burial will be at Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery, Belleville, IL.