Joan A. Liscum, 90, formerly of Madison, passed away peacefully Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 at Terra Vista Memory Care in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., with her daughter Becky by her side.
She was born Feb. 20, 1930, on a farm near Ontario, Wis., to Fred and Louese (Hunter) Mitchell. From the age of 4, she would make the 3-mile trek to Johnnycake, a one-room school, many times trudging through snowdrifts as tall as herself. It gave her the fortitude to persevere in life. She became vice president of her junior class at Hillsboro High School and played coronet in the marching band, though she admitted she would have preferred to have played the French horn.
Upon graduation in 1947, she left the farm for cosmetology school in La Crosse, which led her to her first job at a beauty shop in Richland Center. There, with her best friend Sharron by her side, she went on a blind double date with Maynard “Mike” Liscum. After dating for more than a year, Joan left Richland Center and landed a job in Madison at Hauser’s Beauty Shop.
Maynard tried to lure Joan back to RC with weekly love letters, but he realized she had become a city girl, so he joined her in Madison and found work.
Christmas night, 1950, Maynard planned a special gift for Joan. But while driving in his Packard, the car became stuck in a snow drift just outside of Yuba. Maynard got out, opened her door, got down on one knee and proposed marriage.
The couple married in Hillsboro on Aug. 4, 1951, and lived in Madison. Maynard “Mike” sang tenor in the famed barbershop quartet “The Cardinals” and Joan traveled along as they competed and won many barbershop contests, placing in the Top Ten of several international competitions.
Eight years into their marriage, son Tim was born, followed by daughter, Becky. Joan’s focus became the children, holding various titles including Room Mother at Crestwood Elementary, Den Mother, Brownie and Girl Scout Leader.
She returned to the beauty salon, providing “hair therapy” in nursing homes, which gave her such pride to serve others. She was known in the neighborhood for her beautiful gardens. She loved dancing, recreation league volleyball, and supporting her children’s music and sports endeavors. Her favorite activity was baking, with bread coming out of the oven just as Tim and Becky arrived home from school. Homemade cookies, brownies, pies and cakes were abundant and lovingly made.
One of Joan’s passions, which began in her childhood, was spending time outdoors. She became a naturalist and guide at the Madison School District’s School Forest and delighted in leading elementary students on nature trails to explore and learn in an outdoor classroom.
In retirement, Joan and Mike traveled the country in their motor home and made a couple of trips overseas but felt most at home in Vernon County, creating an oasis on the homestead where she was born. They enjoyed the changing seasons and reveled in the early springtime, tapping maple trees and cooking down sap in a self-built “sugar camp” in the woods. They also maintained a few beehives and extracted golden honey, just as Joan’s father, Fred Mitchell (the famed bee man of Bear Hollar), had done in the same valley.
After Mike’s passing in 2013, Joan remained independent for several years, canning and freezing vegetables from her sizeable garden in Madison.
Joan eventually relocated to an assisted living facility near Becky, in suburban Chicago. Joan was a joy to staff and fellow dementia residents and amazed everyone with her strength and will, coming through two hip fractures, a stroke and surviving Covid-19 until post-Covid syndrome presented complications too difficult to overcome.
Joan loved her family and inspired them with a determination to succeed in any challenge even if the proverbial snow drifts are daunting.
She was predeceased by her parents, her husband, and her sisters, Marie Popp and Bonnie Mehtala. Survivors include Tim (Madeleine Bryant) of Melbourne, Fla., and Becky (Ann Flood) of Oak Park, Ill.; two grandchildren, Michelle Keim and Anthony Liscum; seven great-grandchildren; several nephews, nieces and their families; as well as beloved cousins from the Hunter side of the family.
Donations in honor of Joan can be made to the Aldo Leopold Foundation, Alzheimer’s Association or a favorite charity. A private family gathering is being planned for this summer.