JOANNE GRACE HILL TARBOX STYLES
January 3, 1918 – March 5, 2016
Joanne Grace Hill Tarbox Styles, distinguished educator, writer, artisan, and philanthropist, died at age 98, Saturday, March 5 in Mount Morris, IL where she and her first husband, Hascy Tarbox, bought a farm in 1962. In 2012, she donated 50 acres of her farm to the Northern Illinois Audubon Society, which is now known as the Silver Creek Biodiversity Preserve.
Born on January 3, 1918 in Chicago, Illinois, she was the first of Roger and Hortense Hill’s three children. The Hills owned and operated for over three decades the internationally celebrated boarding school, the Todd School for Boys, in Woodstock, IL, until it closed in 1954. In addition to her siblings, Bette and Roger II, she shared her formative years with a Todd classmate, Orson Welles, who her parents came to regard as their foster son. After graduating from Todd and achieving stratospheric success on stage, radio, and screen, during a visit to his alma mater, Welles brought with him the film actress, Dolores Del Rio, who upon meeting Joanne, observed, “You are one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen.”
Joanne’s beauty wasn’t merely skin deep. Her commitment to social justice and contributing to the welfare of others was lifelong—a dedication she inherited from her parents and extended family, including her cousin, Edwin Embree, an international champion of civil rights and the president of the Rosenwald Foundation.
In 1939, she married Hascy Tarbox. She first met Hascy the day he enrolled at the Todd School when both were twelve years old. They were married for 52 years. Their artistic natures, she a writer, he an artist, coupled with myriad shared tastes provided them decades of happiness until his death in 1991. They are the parents of Melinda Reitman (Alfred) and Todd (Shirley), who brought them 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
She married Lee Styles in 1994. He died in 2004.
Another of her passions was education. She began her career as an elementary teacher at Todd, later she taught at Milwaukee County Day School, and her last 20 years in the classroom were in Leaf River (IL). A testament to her effectiveness as a teacher is the lifetime relationships she developed with many of her students.
Progressive politics was another of her passions. Over the decades, she unstintingly contributed her time and resources to politicians who shared her opinions on how best to bring about a more just and livable world.
To many she remained ageless over the decades. In a speech to college students on aging, 65-year-old Hascy observed, “To me the answer to keeping pace with the clock is simple: keep moving. Like Peter Pan, keep flitting. It’s not your doing that you showed up when you did between two eternities of time, before you were you and after you were not. Rejoice in that reality… Better to nourish and keep green that remarkable inner you, which doesn’t have to contend with time.”
Joanne spent an expansive lifetime keeping green her remarkable “inner you” that never contended with time.
In a letter to her parents on her 50th birthday, she wrote:
“Fifty is surely a time for taking stock, for deciding if your direction is straight and true, what things are most important to get done in the allotted time. It was a lovely time of love and laughter last week when we were all together. The thing that can be carved on my tombstone is ‘She had it so good and she knew it.’ Last week, forty-eight years later, she shared with family members the same sentiment. She forgot to add that those who were touched by her “had it so good” and “knew it.”
Her life was celebrated often while she was alive. The last being her 98 birthday. At her request, there will be no formal service for Joanne, “Instead,” she suggested, “plant a tree.”
Contributions in Joanne’s memory would be welcomed by the Northern Illinois Audubon Society.