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Joanna B. Vanni

January 21, 1931 January 8, 2019
Joanna B. Vanni
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Obituary for Joanna B. Vanni

Joanna Bernadine Vanni, 87, of Oak Park passed away on Tuesday, January 8, 2019. She was born to the late Frank and Mary (Breckenridge) Kirchgessner and preceded in death by her loving husband Steno, her daughter Sylvia Candela and siblings, Fr. Julius Kirchgessner, Gene Elbert, Albert Kirchgessner, Isabel and Anna Belle Kirchgessner.

Joanna was a graduate of Metamora High School, class of 1948, Rosary College (Dominican University), class of 1952, and completed masters level coursework at the esteemed American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, IL. She married Steno at St Mary’s church in Metamora, IL on May 8, 1954.

A pianist and organist of extraordinary talent, she worked as a church organist in the Oak Park River Forest community her entire adult life, including 33 years at St. Vincent Ferrer, followed by time at St Giles, Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church, and the River Forest United Methodist Church from which she retired in 2016. She filled in often as a substitute organist at nearly all the catholic churches in the area and played for hundreds of weddings and funerals. A lifelong lover and supporter of the arts she was a member of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Architectural Foundation, and the Guild of American Organists. She was a season ticketholder to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera, and Joffrey Ballet for decades.

She was also an ardent animal lover and donated generously to numerous animal rescue organizations. She spoiled her “granddogs” and “grandkitties” with reckless abandon, happily noting she could do so because they did not have to grow up to be responsible adults.

In addition to her musical endeavors, she worked full time as an Insurance claims administrator for Employers Insurance of Wausau (now owned by Nationwide) for 23 years where she formed lifelong friendships with many of her co-workers. Ahead of her times in many respects, she often commuted to work at Wausau via bicycle rather than drive in busy Oak Park traffic.

In her retirement years she traveled extensively in the U.S. and Europe and visited many of the great cathedrals in Europe, checking out their organs along the way. As a devout Catholic, it was a joy for her to travel in a way that fulfilled her both spiritually and musically.

Joanna is survived by her children Paul Vanni, Bill Vanni (Lori), Jim Vanni (Julie), and Jane Vanni-Noone (Kevin); and her cherished grandchildren Chrissy (Ben), Stanley, and Aidan.

Family and friends will gather on Monday, January 14th from 3 to 8 p.m., at Drechsler, Brown, & Williams Funeral Home, 203 S. Marion St., Oak Park. A brief prayer service will be held at the funeral home on Tuesday, January 15th at 9:15 a.m. with a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Catherine/St. Lucy, 38 N. Austin Blvd., Oak Park at 10 a.m. Interment to follow at Queen of Heaven Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the American Diabetes Association, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Funeral information is available at, or by calling 708-383-3191.

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Previous Events





3:00 PM 1/14/2019 3:00:00 PM - 8:00 PM 1/14/2019 8:00:00 PM
Drechsler Brown & Williams Funeral Home

203 South Marion Street
Oak Park, IL 60302

Drechsler Brown & Williams Funeral Home
203 South Marion Street Oak Park 60302 IL
United States

Funeral Mass




10:00 AM 1/15/2019 10:00:00 AM - 11:00 AM 1/15/2019 11:00:00 AM
St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy Church

38 N. Austin Blvd.
Oak Park, IL 60302

Prayers 9:15 a.m. at the funeral home.

St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy Church
38 N. Austin Blvd. Oak Park 60302 IL
United States

Cemetery Details


Queen of Heaven Cemetery Final Resting Place

1400 S Wolf Rd
Hillside, IL 60162

1400 S Wolf Rd Hillside 60162 IL
United States

Memorial Contribution

American Diabetes Association

55 E. Monroe St.
Chicago, IL 60603


P.O. Box 96929
Washington, DC 20090-6929

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