Joanne Berkstresser Stepp Nielson

March 25, 1927- Feb. 17, 2023


Joanne Berkstresser Stepp Nielson, sometimes known as “George,” first saw the light of day on March 25, 1927, at the Busse Hospital in Sterling (Colorado), the youngest child of Allen Palmer Berkstresser and Inez Bessie Whitney Berkstresser.

Joanne, lately of Sparta, Tennessee, (we are sure) took the    acceleration lane to get to heaven in the early morning hours of February 17th, 2023, in time to get there to join friends and family and loved ones for “coffee and breakfast,” Including deceased spouses Paul Edward Stepp and Donald Henry Nielson – as well as her own loving parents named previously, and her elder sister, Bette McDermott (Bob).

Having resisted for many months St. Peter’s invitation to “come on down”- Joanne did just that- despite her reluctance to leave her daughters – berki Alan Stepp (Thomas House Williams) and RL Stepp, and step-children Susan Jean Nielson, and Donald Henry Nielson, Jr. (Malene), and grandson Christopher Nielson, along with other great, great, great-grandchildren, and very dear friends and extended family Jim, Sandy, and Buddy Williams.

She listened and obeyed.

That is difficult to do when your life is full.  That is scary to do when you are coming to the drop off in the road - and haven’t been down this one yet.

Trust and obey.

Joanne was a remarkable woman.  Smart, unassuming, funny, intelligent, and private, and a diligent and hard worker.

“George” attended Lincoln Grade School and was a member of the Sterling High School class of ’45 - and was involved in so many activities – that we have no clue how she didn’t fall asleep standing up!  A partial list of her high school activities include: Member of National Honor Society, member of the Order of the Rainbow, A Cappella Choir member (they told her to just mouth the words – they needed a “body”) and it wasn’t until she joined First Baptist that Joanne discovered she “COULD” carry a tune in a bucket!  Pep Club, Band and Orchestra, Assembly Committee, Student Council, GAA, Rifle Club, Girls Intramural, Choir, Freshman Play, Social Dance, Bridge Club, President of Student Body, Treasurer of Pep Club, Treasurer of National Honor Society, Student Council representative from GAA, Member of the winning Victory Kids Cop Girls 1945 Basketball Trophy.

Joanne, (or Berkie, as she was known at college) graduated Bachelor of Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder – where she spent summers working as a housekeeper at the enticing and glamorous Estes Park Resort in the original resort – The Stanley Hotel - where she met, dated, and married summer bell hop and WWll US Navy Veteran Paul Stepp, who was attending Parson’s College, in Iowa, during the academic year to obtain his teaching certificate as well.

But wait!! There’s more…. In her 40’s - As Joanne continued in her day job of being an educator and teacher - she returned to the classroom in the evening to advance her learning and received her Masters in Education, becoming the first woman driving instructor in the State of California.  Additionally - continuing her love of the outdoors - Joanne fell in love with - and became a winning scratch golfer - playing in tournaments with her husband Don Nielson - all over the western US- traveling in the Family Motorhome known as “Big Mo,” and volunteering for many years at the “Annual Bob Hope Classic Golf Tournament.”

Joanne was so engaged in living, attending her beloved Theophilus Sunday School Class, - and her community and family activities that her later life activities such as playing bridge, baking, canning, being a scratch golfer, volunteering, her involvement with “Friends of the Library,” attending and volunteering at Vacation Bible School, her membership in “FCE” and “Welcome Neighbors,” and “Red Hats;” her travels round the globe to Alaska, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland - her life-long quest for knowledge - always learning about new technology, and her interest in current events and politics made for her to be the thinking man’s bridge partner… made us again wonder how she did it all.   Tennis, swimming, basketball, sponsoring and leading Brownie and Girl Scout troops – camping, playing the piano, dancing, reading old fashioned books printed on paper – then later – e-books – Joanne embraced new technology, and adapted to any challenge which came her way- often without comment- she quietly and with a sweet spirit adapted, and worked quietly and quickly in the background- getting life done.  She lived through the “Great Depression” and those challenges of life, through war and ration books, using her ability as a crack shot with her 22 Rifle to hunt rabbits not only for food, but to use their fur for the war effort to line the caps of the aviators – as the men went off to war - the women stepped up their presence – which is how Joanne ended up being the class president- Raymond Harris left to join the Navy -  and how she ended up harvesting and bringing in the sugar beet crop that year….The farmers had gone to war.  She went where she was needed….

Visitation will be 10-11 a.m., March 25, at First Baptist Church of Sparta, with Celebration of Life service at 11 a.m.