JoEllen Dennis, 72, passed away on October 6, 2019, in her own bed, in her own home, with her husband and kids holding her lovingly as she silently and peacefully slipped away.
Jo was born November 12, 1946 in the tiny town of Weston, West Virginia to Jack and Betty Luzader. Her little sister Mindy (Leasure) was born four years later, and was her best friend and greatest ally for life. She grew up in Glenville, West Virginia, where the pretty girl with the big smile made friends that lasted her lifetime. There, she married Phil Dennis, her husband of 51 years. They moved to Parkersburg, West Virginia in 1971, where Jo worked at the Wood County Public Library, seamlessly combining her love of books, her thirst for knowledge and her love of helping people, for 32 years.
Jo was a bright and beautiful light in a little, round body, with an eternal sparkle in her eye and a wicked sense of humor. She was known as “Munga” to her grandchildren (and all their friends), and they were the joys of her life. Munga referred to them collectively as “The Munginis.” A voracious reader, a naturally brilliant scholar and renowned expert in almost everything, Jo was the kindest person most people will ever know. She gifted each of her grandchildren a book every month of their lives from the day they were born. Her generosity extended into the community where she volunteered for school programs and donated dozens of coats to local children.
Jo loved nothing more than simply hanging out with her family. Because she didn’t “want to die with narrow horizons,” she moved to Columbus, North Carolina in 2009 to be a full-time Munga. She spent her final years with grandchildren snuggling on the couch, sitting on the sidelines at their sporting events, and “making cool things with string.” Her love for her family and friends shone brightly every day of her life. As one dear friend put it: “She always made me feel safe and loved. Like nothing would happen on her watch.”
She was a fighter, a fearless warrior against cancer, the disease that finally took her. The pink boxing gloves that have hung on her front door since her diagnosis, hang there still in her honor.
She is survived by her husband, Phil, children Debbie DeWall, Scott Dennis, Julie Carroll, and Chip Dennis, grandchildren Bella Dennis, Matthew Dennis, Elena Carroll and Brady Carroll, sister Mindy Leasure, and an endless sea of friends and family.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be offered in her honor to Hope Women’s Cancer Center of Asheville, NC, or Four Seasons Hospice of Flat Rock, NC.
The family also wishes to humbly and graciously thank all our friends and extended family for the overwhelming outpouring of love and support over the last days, weeks, and months. We are touched to our collective core, and will never ever forget the love and kindness we’ve been gifted. Thank you all beyond words.
The family will gather at the Leavitt Family Center to receive friends from 4 – 6 on Saturday October 19. A memorial service will follow at Leavitt Funeral Home, Parkersburg.
Donations may be made in JoEllen’s honor to Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library Children’s Department.