It was a Friday night, and Jo Ann Dehncke was on her way home in Morton when a car crash took her life.
After more than 68 years of making an impact on the Redwood area, Jo, as so many knew her, may not be at any more Relay For Life events, church activities or community celebrations, but the legacy she leaves behind will live on through those who knew her and had the opportunity to be blessed by her.
“It wasn’t until Jo’s untimely death that many of us realized exactly how busy she became and how many people she reached out to,” wrote Pat Salmon as she described the impact of Jo.
Family was an extremely important part of Jo’s life, and it  was the commitment to her husband, Bob, that pushed her to take service to the next level.
“Fourteen years ago, Jo Ann lost her husband, the love of her life to his battle with cancer,” wrote Jenny Scoates.
From that time foward, Jo was actively making a difference through activities at the community level, such as her Relay For Life fundraiser “Dancing With the Stars”, as well as Hearts and Hands at Cornerstone Christian Church.
Through that program, Jo was able to bring people together in efforts to help others in need with food, rides and even visits.
“Jo Ann will always be remembered in our hearts for the many, many things she gave,” wrote Scoates, adding she expressed a “genuine love for all.”
Marcus Kendall, the Cornerstone Christian Church pastor, called Jo a “kindhearted woman who thought of others more highly than herself.”
“All too often she exhibited a long-suffering from which we can all learn and grow,” wrote Kendall.
Relay For Life was so important to Jo, especially recognition of survivors.
“Jo Ann worked hard each year to be sure the Relay For Life of Redwood County event centered around cancer survivors,” wrote Jennifer Evans, senior community manager, Relay For Life midwest division.  “It was her mission to ensure that each survivor felt welcomed, honored and celebrated.  Jo Ann was the team captain of The Bobbers team for many years, raising thousands of dollars toward the fight against cancer.  Many of us enjoyed her Dancing With the Stars fundraising event each year.  
“She truly believed in the mission of the American Cancer Society and worked hard to raise funds to help free the world from the pain and suffering of cancer.”
Shirley Dove, Morton city clerk, added Jo’s involvement was evident in the community she called home.
Dove wrote Jo was an active member of the Lions Club and was a board member of the Morton Area Chamber, serving as a member since its inception.
“Jo Ann was active in the community, sharing her strong bonds with faith, family and friends,” wrote Dove. “She set an example for others to follow in everything she did. She always, even in difficult situations, was able to find the good in people and situations. Her presence in the community and the surrounding area will be greatly missed.”
Bob Dehncke, Jr., her son, added, she was more than just a mom to him and his sister, Julie.
“Every one of our friends called her mom, most of our children’s friends called her Grandma, and everyone she met called her a friend,” wrote her son. “I loved going to Vikings games with her, and it wasn’t about the game itself. It was about going with her, so we could talk. I could watch her enjoying herself and occasionally laugh at her when the Star Spangled Banner was played and she would start crying (she cried every game – she had such reverence for the true meaning behind it).”  
For these and myriad other reasons demonstrated through a lifetime, Jo Ann Dehncke has been named the 2016 Gazette Person of the Year.