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Jo Ann's Story

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Jo Ann Ulmark Perkins died peacefully, in the loving arms of family, in Dallas on the morning of March 7, 2017. Jo Ann was 80 years old at the time of her death, and throughout those years of her life, she never failed to exemplify, even in her final days, a sense of grace, kindness, a wide-ranging curiosity and a sense of class. Those fortunate to have known her, among her family and friends, will never forget her physical and spiritual presence in their lives.
Jo Ann was born to Arthur and Goldee Ulmark in Hennessey, Okla., on Aug. 11, 1936. The day of her birth is still recognized as the hottest day yet recorded in Oklahoma, as the temperature reached 113 degrees.
Jo Ann attended Hennessey Schools grades one-12, graduating with the class of 1954. She was awarded a scholarship to Oklahoma College for Women, and she attended there for two years before going to work as a secretary for Black, Sivalls & Bryson, an oil field supply company in Oklahoma City. When BS&B opened a branch in Dallas, they sent Jo Ann, their sharpest person, to set up and work in that office. Jo Ann was obviously a young woman then who was not afraid of a challenge, to travel in order to create the space for opportunity and experience.
While working in Dallas, Jo Ann met and married a young dental student at Baylor University named Joseph (Joe) S.K. Lam. After his graduation from dental school, Jo Ann, Joe and their baby Kerri moved back to his home in Hong Kong, traveling there on an American President ocean liner. They enjoyed a very happy life there as Joe established his dental practice, and Jo Ann and Kerri were welcomed with warmth into the lives of the extended Lam family in that magical city, so far away from Hennessey. However, tragedy struck as Joe died very suddenly, and Jo Ann was widowed at 26 on the other side of the world.
When it was time for Kerri to start kindergarten, they returned to the United States and made their home in Hennessey with Jo Ann's beloved grandmother, Elizabeth Freeman. It was she, Elizabeth, who had raised Jo Ann and her sister Mary Beth (Tootie) after their mother and daddy both died when Jo Ann and Mary Beth were young.
Here in Hennessey, Jo Ann met a handsome, young attorney, Norman Perkins, who was raising his young son Chris. They married ​and raised Kerri and Chris together, along with the two children born to their marriage, Nick and Alissah. The family resided at 202 S. Cimarron, the unusual two-story, brick house in Hennessey that many people in the town, even today, claim is haunted.
Jo Ann was a devoted and steadfast mother to her young children, and found happiness in teaching Sunday school at the Methodist Church and golfing, among other activities. Her children would come home from school, and entered a home where the wonderful scent of her "secret" oatmeal cookies baking in the oven met them at the door. Jo Ann also gave the gift of music to her children, purchasing a piano and, for years, driving her children Nick and Alissah to weekly piano lessons.
Jo Ann was a loving friend and neighbor, enjoying friendships with Annie Hajek and Stella Reeder who lived nearby, and she enjoyed many fun times with her special girlfriends (Lorna Glenn, Delores Matousek, Erma Kokojan and Wilma Mirkes) among numerous others. Often, one could count on seeing Jo Ann at The Colony House restaurant or Dale's quick stop drinking coffee, swapping stories, smoking cigarettes and laughing out loud with one or more of her beloved friends.
Jo Ann also loved to travel. She loved to see new places, to observe people in far-away places; and as a result she and her sister Mary Beth took many long road trips, singing and laughing their way to Louisiana and Tennessee, and stopping at every antique store along the way.
During the middle years of her life, she saw much of the world with Mary Beth and their brother Bill and his wife Ann: England, Russia, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Brunei, Canada, various Islands of the Caribbean, Hawaii, and more.
Jo Ann never met a stranger. When she flew to Seattle many times, to visit her sister Mary Beth and her family, she would arrive with detailed stories of seat mates she met on her flight ... where they lived, where they were going, where they met their spouse, what they did for a living. She sought information from others not out of "snoopiness," but for her genuine interest and love of people, which never wavered. She loved "people-watching" in airports, on cruise ships, in restaurants, everywhere. Even while sitting on the front porch of her house in Hennessey, she found wonder in watching the vivid world pass by.
Jo Ann was also a woman who had many interests. She was a great fan of OU football, attending many games, and could often be seen wearing a "Sooner" shirt or sweatshirt or jacket. Also, she loved reading about current events, especially national politics. Until the most recent election, she had always followed with great attention and feeling of the speeches and actions of national figures she admired, and she was overjoyed, for example, to have lived to see the presidency of Barack Obama.
In recent years, Jo Ann resided in Dallas with her daughter Alissah and her husband Michael in a beautiful home on a pleasant street. There, she loved taking care of her long-lived and much loved cat, Boots. In these years, it was a blessing for both mother and daughter, as they enjoyed sitting together at restaurants, in parks, or at North Park Mall, talking and observing the people around them. Even as her health declined, Jo Ann adored these activities and the precious days she spent with her daughter and son-in-law. On her 80th birthday, each of her children and many of her grandchildren met in Dallas to throw her a birthday party at one of her favorite restaurants, Gloria's.
Jo Ann was preceded in death by her parents, Arthur and Goldee Ulmark; an infant sister, Carol Jean; by her grandmother Elizabeth Freeman; and by her beloved and brilliant older brother William (Bill) Ulmark.
She is survived by her sister Mary Beth (Tootie) of Yakima, Wash.; by her daughter Kerri Prince of Edmond; by her son Chris Perkins of Allen, Texas; by her son Nick Perkins of Norman; and by her daughter Alissah of Dallas.
In addition, Jo Ann's kindness, generosity, and grace touched the lives of each of her grandchildren: Aja Prince and Kiana Prince; Carson and Cullen Perkins; Minh, Pauline, Augustine and Christine Pham (Perkins).
Jo Ann also leaves behind her nephews and niece, of the Seattle area. There are numerous cousins, family, and her precious friends who shall survive her, and recall her stories, her special beauty, and her humor in their memories.
A public memorial service for Jo Ann is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, April 29, 2017, at the Hennessey Methodist Church. Musician/violinist Kyle Dillingham, an Enid native will provide music for the memorial. All are invited.
A private, family graveside service will be held on that same day. We plan to meet and celebrate Jo Ann at the Ranch Room later in the day, and that night — and all are invited.
The family thanks all of those who cared for Jo Ann in this life, including those nurses and doctors attending her in her final days at the T. Boone Pickens Hospice in Dallas. Arrangements were provided by Cordry-Gritz Funeral Home.
Donations, if desired, may be made to The Hennessey Educational Foundation (a 501(3c) organization providing Grants to Teachers in the Hennessey school district.)
Published on April 15, 2017
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