"I know I'm a pain, but ..."
This is how Jo Plunkett started most of her conversations with me.
It was her way of getting my attention and of couching what was coming -- which often might have seemed like a complaint, if most of her observations and advice weren't so dead on.
After a weekslong battle for her health, Jo Plunkett passed away Oct. 10 in Riverside Hospital.
Jo was a tenacious supporter of German Village, a loyal friend to nearly everyone she met and a tireless volunteer.
Jo and her husband, Jim, were co-chairmen of 2013 PreTour, regular German Village Garten Club volunteers and leaders. Jo took her place on the Membership Committee so seriously that she never let a conversation end without: "Are you a member of German Village Society?" And she was a regular Friday afternoon volunteer in the Visitors Center, to name just a handful of ways she gave back.
It was on those Fridays in the Visitors Center I often got the: "I know I'm a pain, but ... ."
She often followed it with sage advice about how to make the visitor or member or volunteer experience better. And she was rarely wrong. She's made me a better leader and manager for the German Village Society.
I'm not the only one who will remember her as utterly tenacious and a little wily.
Sixth Street neighbor Bill Case said, "When Jim and Jo were bidding on the home they ended up buying at a public auction and lovingly restoring, an observer of the auction noticed that the two of them seemed to be in disagreement as to bidding strategy.
"I recently mentioned that to Jim and he told me that the problem arose because Jo got so caught up in the bidding that she shouted out a bid that topped the one that Jim had just made!
"Jo obviously threw herself into the spirit of the auction just like everything else she did!"
"When I think of Jim and Jo arriving in German Village, I remember them as having arms wide open to new experiences and that was inspiring," said Connie Swain.
"When I think of German Village, I think of our community wanting to invite people in," Swain said.
"The two came together -- the Plunketts and the Village -- and helped each other beyond measure. German Village, to me, has a force, a spirit. And Jo was, too."
"Jo epitomized what German Village is all about: taking care of our community and each other, and doing so always with a ready smile and a willing heart," said Carolyn McCall.
"My stories are usually a little off, as was Jo herself," said Anne Gallutia.
"We all have a story about her pulling up her shirt or pulling out her fake breasts to show us. Usually at some event with multiple people around," Gallutia said.
"She was a proud breast cancer survivor. Also she would go up to anyone that she saw when we were in Frank Fetch park and talk to them and find out everything about them.
"She also asked everyone if they were a member of the GV Society," Gallutia said.
"At her memorial last week, someone noted that the first words that Jo said to God was to ask him if he was a member of the GV Society."
In lieu of flowers, Jim has asked donations be made to German Village Society. The Society is grateful and humbled to be the recipient of this final act of service and kindness.
Jo, of course, will be most missed by her family -- especially her lifelong friend, husband and co-adventurer, Jim, who summed up their life together this way and I think are words to live by:
"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways -- a glass of wine in one hand -- chocolate in the other -- body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming 'WOO-HOO, what a ride!' "
Jo, if you're reading this, you might have been a pain occasionally -- but the pain of losing you too soon is a tax on your family, neighbors and friends. Rest in peace.
German Village Society Director Shiloh Todorov submitted the Village Notebook column.