Cover photo for Joann (Johnson) Ewen's Obituary
Joann (Johnson) Ewen Profile Photo
1931 Joann 2016

Joann (Johnson) Ewen

February 15, 1931 — June 26, 2016

Joann Ewen was well into middle age, 53, before she found her true passion—for gardening. “I went nuts over it,” she once said, when she discovered the beauty of perennials on a trip to a local nursery. With a group of equally fanatical volunteers, she would eventually create Rainbow Garden in 2005, which today stands as a stunning community centerpiece in Mayville, North Dakota. She died Sunday, June 26, 2016 at age 85. Jo moved to Mayville with her new husband, Clark Ewen, in 1956, after their February marriage that year. Jo, who had worked at Dayton’s department store in downtown Minneapolis after graduating from North Dakota State University with a home economics degree, suddenly became a farm wife, and worked hard to prove she wasn’t a “townie” to her new relatives. “I’ve always liked to work. I’ve always had a strong body, and if you have a strong body you kind of like to use it, don’t you?” she once said. She became an enthusiastic organizer of events, at first to have fun with her children and family friends at home with the Zucchini Zip-off or Non-Talent Shows, as she called them, and later to draw big crowds to Chautauqua festivals or Night of the Arts for the entire community. “Community involvement was important to me. Being honorable. Doing your part. Working hard,” were catch phrases for Jo, although she hesitated for a long time when asked a few months before her death her biggest lesson learned in her life. “I guess it’s—Jump in,” she said at last. “I love working with volunteers. They’re just so generous.” She was born February 15, 1931, to Perry and Alice Johnson in Jamestown, North Dakota, who preceded her in death, as did her beloved husband, Clark, her brother Blaise, and her greatest friend, Merle Freije. She is survived by her four children and their spouses whom she considered her kids as well: daughter Ann Ewen with Mark Edwards of Phoenix, son Jon Ewen with Betsy of Mayville; daughter Beth with Jeff Amann of Minneapolis; and son Mark Ewen with Karen of Boston. She loved and was adored by nine grandchildren: Sarah Edwards; Sam, Mike and Emma Ewen; Kate and Clark Amann; and Clark, Abi and Claire Ewen, who recall running across the field for her famous chocolate milkshakes or playing board games with Jo’s enthusiastic encouragement or mild trash talk. She was an avid theater fan, a tireless community volunteer, a workhorse at home, a vocal supporter of progressive causes and an excellent conversationalist who made friends with people of all ages. During her year-long illness with cancer, she expressed her gratitude many times for the wonderful caregivers and friends who took such good care of her. Her family, too, expresses their deepest thanks for the countless people who helped her through the tough times. Memorials preferred to your favorite May-Port charity. Visitation: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, July 1, 2016, with story-sharing at 7 p.m. Choir rehearsal, open to all who wish to sing at her service the following day will follow the story-sharing. Memorial Service: Saturday, July 2, 2016 at 10:30 a.m., followed by refreshments. All events are at Congregational United Church of Christ, 111 Center Ave N, Mayville, ND.
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