Joanne Rompel

Print Obituary
Joanne (Cullen) Rompel, 82, of Belleville, Illinois, born December 6, 1936, in East St. Louis, IL, died Wednesday, December 12, 2018, at Memorial Hospital, Belleville, IL.

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

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.



16 Comments on Joanne Rompel

Rick Hess said : Guest Report Sep 02, 2021 at 10:51 PM

I wrote this email before I realized we had lost you, I am so blessed to have had you in my life: Mrs Rompel, I was reading a book about living a life of contribution and the final sentence challenged me to let someone special know how big a difference they made in my life. You are one of those individuals. You gave me confidence that I was intelligent, creative, and special. I cherish the years we had doing Odyssey of the Mind. They laid the foundation of who I am. I would love to catch up some day. But more than anything, thank you! Best, Rick Hess

  • Bethesda
  • MD
Karen Nager Loethen said : Guest Report Feb 18, 2019 at 5:48 AM

My sincerest sympathy to Mrs. Rompel's family! My family was an Abraham Lincoln School family and we all loved and adored Mrs. Rompel! For myself, I was her student at a time when her teaching methods were incredibly forward-thinking (though, this was probably her for her entire career!) and very dynamic during the mid 1970s. I was already a huge reader, but her class always encouraged every facet of that. I was always incredibly fond of her and I have many wonderful and vivid memories of her and of her class. My sincere sympathies.

  • St. Louis
  • MO
Beth Vandewater Miller said : Guest Report Dec 27, 2018 at 12:16 AM

Mrs. Rompel was my 5th grade teacher around 1977. To this day when I hear Jingle Bell Rock I think of her fondly. She instilled a love of music in all of us. Rest In Peace.

  • Creve Couer
  • Mo
jack and paula schrand said : Guest Report Dec 17, 2018 at 4:51 PM

Our thoughts and prayers be wih you all. Whenever we were together, the conversation always drifted to our love of teaching, and she gave so many hours to dist. 118.

  • Illinois
Sammy Micklus said : Guest Report Dec 17, 2018 at 4:12 PM

Joanne was an angel among us. Her love of life, of others, and for God were evident in all she did. Though we are all at a loss with her passing we are at so much of a profit for having known her. It is wonders like Joanne who made Odyssey of the Mind a family. May God bless and comfort her.

  • Washington Township
  • New Jersey
Virginia Barthel said : Guest Report Dec 17, 2018 at 2:25 AM

My sympathy to the family. Fondly remembering Joanne and our time together in District 118.

  • Belleville
  • IL
Virginia Barthel said : Guest Report Dec 17, 2018 at 2:22 AM

My sympathy to the family. Fondly remembering Joanne and our time together in District 118.

  • Belleville
  • IL
Joe Cipfl said : Guest Report Dec 16, 2018 at 5:40 PM

Bob, Gerry and Patty, Please know that Linda and I offer our warmest thoughts and sincere prayers. How fondly I remember those wonderful days at Abraham Lincoln School.where I had the opportunity to learn what an outstanding teacher Joanne was as she assumed a fundamental role in helping develop one of the first non-graded schools in Illinois. Joanne was a master educator and a team leader. She made such a positive difference in the lives of students. A true professional! God bless Joanne!

  • O'Fallon
  • IL
Marti Geppert said : Guest Report Dec 16, 2018 at 5:37 PM

Rompel Family, Joanne was a terrific educator and a gift to the students of Belleville District 118. Our son enjoyed her "gifted" classes so much.

  • Belleville
  • IL
Marcy said : Guest Report Dec 16, 2018 at 4:00 PM

My heart and thoughts are with you and your family. Marcy

  • Smithton
  • IL
Bill Korobey said : Guest Report Dec 15, 2018 at 4:43 PM

Bob, you lost a very special person. Our times together will also be remembered.

  • Fairview Hys
  • Ill
Jane Hoepfinger said : Guest Report Dec 15, 2018 at 3:54 PM

Bob, so sorry to learn of your loss. Joanne made such a positive impact on so many people and touched so many lives. The Lunte and Hoepfinger families will always be very grateful for her. God’s welcoming a true angel to his house.

  • Columbia
  • Il
Anne Asbury Ross said : Guest Report Dec 15, 2018 at 3:30 PM

Bob, Gerry and Patty, what a wonderful human JoAnn was! She was a dear friend of our mom and I can’t help but imagine the reunion the are having right now.

  • St Louis
  • Missouri
Linda Stevenson said : Guest Report Dec 15, 2018 at 2:58 PM

We have all missed Joanne's smiles, hugs and words of joy and care at Odyssey World Finals! She was always ready to tell a great story! Thank You Joanne, you are a very special Lady to all who knew you!

  • Ruthven
  • ON
Pamela Davidson Reeder said : Guest Report Dec 15, 2018 at 9:42 AM

Rick and I are heartbroken over the loss of your mother, Patty. What a wonderful life she had before Alzheimer’s took over. Even after that, your dad and your family took such great measures to make sure she was happy and loved and had music every day in her life. Celebrate her contributions to this world. Hug your daddy for me.

  • Tampa
  • Fl
Mary Pritchett said : Guest Report Dec 14, 2018 at 7:41 PM

Your wife/mom/grandmother/greatgrandmother was my cooperating teacher way back in 1971. She taught me much about being creative in my teaching. She was a role model for me in my 45 years of teaching. You have my deepest sympathies!

  • Mascoutah
  • IL

Add Public Condolence

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.