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Joan A. Sorber, RN

February 2, 1926 April 9, 2017
Joan A.  Sorber, RN
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Obituary for Joan A. Sorber, RN

Joan Adele “Jo” Srout Sorber, a longtime resident of Oak Park, recently of Lombard, IL passed away on April 9. A memorial service is planned for Saturday May 13, 2017, 1 p.m. at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake, Oak Park.

Jo was born in 1926, the youngest of three children to Russell M. Srout Sr. and Blanche H. Srout in the Illinois River town of Peru. As a child growing up in the great depression, Jo recalled sharing the only family bicycle with her two older brothers, Russell M. “Bud” Srout, Jr and Bruce J. Srout. Jo additionally recalled playing cards and having sleepovers with her older cousin Hortense “Tense" at an early age. Jo remembered many breakfasts consisting of corn-meal mush, which her mother frequently made because of it’s low cost. Jo preferred her mush served fried and with maple syrup and also sometimes enjoyed that meal as an adult. Jo had many pets throughout her life including her childhood dog Flirt. On one family automobile trip, unbeknownst to the driver, Flirt was said to have jumped onto the running board of the car and travelled as a stowaway across three Illinois counties.

The Srout family moved frequently while Jo was young, including to homes located in Pontiac, Decatur and eventually landing in Peoria, IL while Jo was in first grade. In a written remembrance book for her grandson, Jo remembered a house on Frink St in Peoria in which she fell sick with scarlet fever. Jo was quarantined by the Peoria health department complete with a sign on the front door. To avoid the quarantine, Jo’s brothers and father were forced to live in the garage while her mother nursed her to health. Jo eventually recovered and continued as a good student at Peoria Central High School. Jo recalled that, during her high school graduation the week of June 6, 1944 (a.k.a. D-Day) the whole family was worried about her brother Bruce who by then was serving in the US Infantry, destined for the shores of France. Fortunately Bruce survived the liberation of Europe with “only” shrapnel injuries.

Jo continued her studies at Washington University in St Louis where she received a BS in Nursing. She was later employed as a nurse and then a nursing instructor at Barnes Jewish hospital in St. Louis, St Francis Hospital in Peoria and then at Denver General Hospital. Jo knew her way around almost any hospital and was known to be a fierce defender of her family’s health. Prior to her own many surgeries Jo was also known to write on her body with basic surgical instructions such as "wrong knee" and "other side." Her 50 year habit of labeling her body prior to general anesthesia, once the subject of snickering, is now considered the standard of care in order to avoid many “left/right” surgical errors.

In 1960, Jo married Gilbert E. (“Gil”) Sorber, a friend of her brother Bruce. Bruce and Gil both were then employed at the US Army, Joliet arsenal. Jo and Gil’s son, Russell Sorber, was born, followed later by their daughter Mary K. Jo and Gil moved from the south side of Chicago to Oak Park in 1966, in time for their two children to attend school in the suburbs.
In 1968 Jo was diagnosed with breast cancer and was bedridden for approximately two years. By 1973 Jo was officially in remission and was among a small minority of women to survive breast cancer during that era. Jo then volunteered to visit women newly diagnosed with breast cancer and also served as a participant in the Women’s Health Initiative, a National Institute of Health decades-long research study of women’s health. Jo shared her medical records with these researchers on a yearly basis until the end of her life.

Jo was well known for her cooking ability and collected more than 225 cookbooks. In the 41 years they lived in Oak Park, Jo and Gil were avid gardeners and almost always planted more than they could eat. Jo and Gil were known for a gardening version of “ding-dong ditch” where they left a bag of extra vegetables, usually zucchini squash, at the doorstep of a friend, rang the doorbell and quickly escaped before the friend could answer the door and explain they couldn’t really use all the zucchinis either!

Jo was an accomplished crafter, including sewing, needlepoint, and embroidery skills. Jo sewed some of her own clothes and nearly all her children’s Halloween costumes. Jo’s magnum opus was a set of two framed decorative street cars which she embroidered over a two year period as a gift to her husband, Gil, a history buff. Upon receiving the gift Gil joked “this is the longest I ever waited for a streetcar!”

Jo was an active member of the Christian Church, Disciple of Christ for much of her life, attending West Bluff Christian Church in Peoria, Morgan Park Christian Church in Chicago, Oak Park Christian Church, and Austin Blvd Christian Church in Oak Park. She attended Pilgrim Church UCC as her health allowed after the closing of Austin Blvd Christian. The churches were a channel for many charitable works. In 1984 Jo and Gil co-founded the Austin Community Table soup kitchen on the west side of Chicago. Jo and Gil collected donated or discount food from grocery stores and restaurants. Jo also acted as substitute cook at the soup kitchen. For more than eleven years the Sorber house contained three freezers, almost completely filled with food destined for the soup kitchen.

Jo enjoyed international traveler and also served as a hostess for many church-related immigrants, international visitors, and international students in her large south Oak Park home. With other church members, she sponsored immigrant families from Cambodia, with Jo and one other church woman greeting the immigrants at O’Hare’s international terminal. Jo also hosted visitors from Afghanistan, Germany, India and Mexico. Jo additionally volunteered her time as a Red Cross nurse during many local blood drives and Illinois natural disaster emergencies. For vacations, Jo and Gil enjoyed spending weeks at their cottage in Michigan, and traveled internationally including to Elder Hostels and worldwide locations of Heifer Project International, their favorite charity.

In 2007 Jo and Gil moved from Oak Park to the Beacon Hill retirement community in Lombard, IL where Gil passed away in 2012. In August, 2016 Jo was again diagnosed with cancer as well as a heart condition. On advice of multiple physicians, Jo entered hospice in September, 2016. While in hospice, Jo’s pain was well managed, and she enjoyed visits from friends and family including from her beloved nephew Dave Srout, grandson Matthew Sorber, and her niece Gayle Mountcastle. During this time Jo had trouble taking off her figurative nursing cap and often enquired about the health of others. She read, played cards, enjoyed harmonica concerts from her son, and worked 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles.

Jo is survived by her son Russell E. (Elaine) Sorber, daughter Mary K. (Peter Kropf) Sorber, grandson Matthew J. Sorber, Sister-in-law Joann Sorber Mountcastle and many loving nieces and nephews. Her ashes will be inurned with her husband of more than fifty years, Gilbert E. Sorber, at the Oak Ridge Cemetery, Hillside IL. In lieu of flowers, memorials to Heifer International (Heifer.org) are appreciated.

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Previous Events

Memorial Service

Saturday

13

May

1:00 PM 5/13/2017 1:00:00 PM - 2:00 PM 5/13/2017 2:00:00 PM
Pilgrim Congregational Church

460 Lake St.
Oak Park, IL 60302

Pilgrim Congregational Church
460 Lake St. Oak Park 60302 IL
United States

Memorial Contribution

Heifer International

1 World Avenue
Little Rock, AR 72202
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