Dan Davis: Hoist a Tab for Joanne

If I could find one, I would pick up a can of Tab, pop the top, lift it in all its pinstriped pinkness to the heavens and offer a toast to Joanne Persinger, a fellow former journalist.

Joanne, a proud Vallonia native, died Feb. 7 at the age of 76. We worked together at The Tribune for a number of years and since her retirement stayed in touch through Facebook and our occasionally overlapping visits at the offices of various doctors.

Joey was more than a proud Vallonian, however. She was also a proud woman. A proud writer. A proud editor. And perhaps most of all, Joanne was a proud mother and Mamaw. She thought the world of her children and the grandkids. She never had to say it. She just showed it, in the way she talked about them, in the way she was there for them. I pray that her family’s many fond memories of Joanne bring them all great comfort.

But back to the newsroom, where we best knew each other.

Joanne could occasionally annoy me with a question or a red stroke — or two or three — of her editing pen on opinion page proofs, but she was almost always asking the right question to make a story or a comment more clear, more succinct, more better. Yes, she would be striking out that “more better” business, as she should. Joanne was almost always correct with her corrections.

She was a tough grammarian and copy editor. I knew about direct objects and compound adjectives, dangling participles and other rules. I knew how things should be written, and I could pass that along to younger reporters to help them grow.

Joanne, however, knew all that, but she could explain the why behind all those rules. And she did. Many times over, in fact, with the many young folks who cycled through the newsroom during her 20-plus years at The Tribune.

Something I perhaps most enjoyed about knowing Joanne was that she was always curious. Curious about how this worked. Or maybe didn’t. Curious about history. Curious about how someone she interviewed got their start or persevered through times of trouble. Or war. That curiosity, and her own perseverance, made Joanne a good storyteller. A good writer. A good editor.

Readers responded to that curiosity, that ability to tell a good, compelling story. And she benefited from that feeling of comfort that readers shared with her. Readers looked forward to Joey coming to their home, sharing time at their kitchen tables, their front porches or their barnyards as she asked them questions and shared their stories.

That curiosity also translated into a terrific memory for songs, music and movies. No one out Betty Davised our Joey when unfolding events – or obstinate bosses – prompted her to warn us: “Fasten our seatbelts … it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Again, if I could find a can of Tab, I’d pop it open and wish Joanne — and her family — the best. And while we’re at it, if I could find that beef tips wagon that rolls into downtown Seymour every Oktoberfest, I’d also eat a mess of those in her memory and wash it down with that can of Tab and type out a final “-30-” for Joanne.

Dan Davis is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County. He is a former reporter and editor for The Tribune and was a newsroom colleague of Joanne Persinger. You may email him at [email protected].