As one of the Founders of the Jewish Community Center Elementary School, now The McGillis School, I have so many wonderful memories of Joanne I wouldn't know where to begin.
Remembering Joanne McGillis
Joanne McGillis passed away peacefully on December 21, 2021. Joanne lived a remarkable and accomplished 89 years of life. Along with her beloved husband, Dick McGillis, Joanne made the School we steward, serve, shape, and love so much a possibility and a place for us all today, and for generations to come.
I will always remember Joanne for her smile and the pure joy she felt being around our students. Not only did she love the students, but they loved her as well. They often couldn’t wait to give her a hug or to share something special with her. She gave so much of herself to our school and community over the years and I will truly miss her love and her presence. Joanne was one of a kind and I feel so fortunate to have known her.
~Laura Bradford, TLC Teacher and Parent of Lucas '25
When I was little I remember her visiting Kindergarten and she was being very nice to everyone even though she didn’t know them.
I remember when I was in elementary school, pre covid, Mrs.McGillis would give us blue sugar cookies after our lunch at the end of the year. She was very generous because she promised to make one for every kid in the school. She also made sure that she was the one handing out the cookies to the kids. It made the lunches and the school feel more like home.
~ Ella '23
When I was younger, Ms. McGillis would give everyone a hug and a piece of taffy if she saw them. She was always so kind and caring to everyone.
I remember her walking around school with a smile on her face giving all the kids taffy… she used to always come in the classrooms and share little stories. One time she hugged me and smiled so big. She made me so happy in those years. She filled my younger years with joy and love. It pours a deep hole in my heart knowing she has passed. I hope for her soul to be happy. She deserves it to be loved and happy after she made so many kids happy. We will miss you Ms. McGillis!
Every time Joanne said goodbye during one of her many visits, she would blow the kindergarteners a kiss and say "I love you!" Students really felt her love and belief in them as students of McGillis even though she didn't know them well. Her visits and presence will be missed.
~Stacey Collett, Kindergarten Teacher and Parent of Olivia '19
Joanne was always very supportive of my work as an Art Specialist at the school and I appreciated her enthusiastic comments to me about our student's work. It meant so much to me that she believed strongly in having a visual art program for the students. As a result of her own background in art, she offered a special Gala Art and Food Experience which I was happy to facilitate several times, helping with supplies and set up. She was a lovely person and one-of-a kind. I will always remember her kindness to me.
~Deborah McDermott, Former Faculty and Parent of Colin '01 and Aiden '06
Students flocked to Joanne for a chance sweet, kind word or gentle hug. I will always cherish the memory of waiting in line for my turn.
~Paul Chung, Math Teacher and Parent of Parker '20 and Miller '21
I remember when I was in kindergarten and she came into our class and we all ran and gave her hugs. She gave Dylan and I kisses on our heads.
Joanne was a force of nature! She accomplished so much in her 89 years. Of all those accomplishments, she was happiest when visiting her "kids," at the school. She felt all emotions so deeply and she LOVED all the children that attended McGillis and they loved her right back. It was a privilege to be part of her circle.
Michael said it perfectly. "Goodbye Gorgeous." I will miss her forever and am so thankful that I had the opportunity to love her and be loved by her.
~Farron Foren, Friend of The McGillis School
I liked it when she came into our classroom and complimented all of our work. She will be missed.
I loved when she passed us taffy and cookies in the halls. It was really sweet. I will miss seeing her.
Joanne was our next-door neighbor for the last 27 years; her intellect was keen and so were her many letters to the Tribune editors. She was a lifelong, strong Democrat and we shared the civic news often; she was no shrinking violet on political issues.
~ Dick & Kaye Giauque, Friends
Our generation of McGillis parents and kids were so lucky to have had Joanne in our lives and in the life of the school! I remember the time she came and met with the Parent Association one morning and shared stories of the early days of the school. She spoke in her characteristically direct manner - with plenty of humorous asides -about the early debates over whether to become an independent organization and how to most appropriately incorporate Jewish practices into the life of the school. Her vision was so clear and so focused on the six Jewish values that were obviously also the guiding principles of her own public life. Joanne, we will miss you, and we will carry forward the legacy that you and Dick established!
~Matthew Weinstein, Parent of Alumni & Former Trustee
My son Yusuf and I share with the community this moment of sadness. We appreciate all the hard work Joanne and her family did for the school that many people cherish. May her soul be blessed and remain in our memories.
~Osman Ahmed, Parent of Yusuf '20
It didn’t matter if it was your first year at McGillis or your twentieth, Joanne always made you feel welcome, important, and cared for when you were in her presence. I will always remember the love that gushed out of every ounce of her being for our students, faculty, and staff. She will forever be in our hearts.
~Matt Blake, 4th Grade Teacher and Parent of Daniela '28 and Iliana '28
Ms. McGillis, thank you for shining your bright and beautiful light on this community for so many years!
~ Cassi Lanie, 5th Grade Teacher and Parent of Emmit '24
Because of Mrs. McGillis we have an amazing community where hundreds of people come to learn. Without her, I would never have had the chance to learn and meet all of these amazing people.
While I never had the privilege of directly meeting Joanne McGillis, her love and passion for learning and children is felt and known directly in our home every day through her namesake school. We are so grateful for her and Dick’s generosity, vision, and principles in giving us and our son a home within this school.
~Jenise Jensen, Parent of Graham '23
The phrase “I love you” was never absent from each of Joanne’s visits to The McGillis School. Her presence always filled our space with joy and care. She was a remarkable human, and I am forever grateful for her. You will be missed, Mrs. McGillis.
~ Maggie McCormick, 4th Grade Teacher and Parent of Olive '24 and Callum '28
The first time I met Joanne was when I worked for Wolfe’s Sporting Goods. Wolfe’s was the competitor of Dick and Joanne’s sporting goods store, Sunset Sports. Many years later I had the opportunity to work for them at The McGillis School. Just seeing the love that Joanne had for the school and especially the kids, has made my time at this school awe inspiring. The students would run to greet her whenever she came to visit and tell her how much they loved her and for giving them McGillis. She always had a hug or a sweet gesture to each and every student. I can’t thank her enough for giving me 23 years of this magical school. Thank you Joanne. We will miss you.
~Shelley Lortsher, 1st Grade Teaching Assistant
Having taught at the McGillis School,The JCC McGillis School, and The JCC Elementary School for 28 years, my first memory of Joanne was when she and Dick announced they would provide the money to purchase the old Douglas School building. I was overwhelmed by their generosity and commitment to our school community. Since that day, Joanne's visits to the school were always met with warm hugs and smiles. She would enter the classrooms and the students' faces would light up with awe and reverence for what she had given them. She made it a point to stop by every classroom when she came to the school and attend every performance or special event when she was in town. When the students sent her cards she would write back and answer their questions or comment about what they had written. She holds a special place in my heart for all she did to make The McGillis School a reality.
~Jan Lundquist, Former Faculty
Upon the news of her passing, our family gathered in remembrance and honored Ms. McGillis. Memories flowed, from the taffy giveaways and visits to the school. To her continual kindness and commitment of seeing each child for who they are. To her use of the daring red lipstick that was a staple! She was one of a kind and we will miss her!
~ The Campagna’s (Fisher ‘24, Finn ‘25, Liam ‘27)
Joanne always gave me praise and positive feedback about the McGillis lunch program and I greatly appreciated it. What made me feel so special was that she always checked in with me personally. She sincerely wanted to know how I was doing, how the school was treating me.
As a a parent of an alum , I am so grateful to her for all that McGillis meant to my entire family.
Her legacy will live on through the many lives that she touched. Although I am not a hugger, I will miss her wonderful hugs and hearing her say “ I love you.”
~Bridget Gill , Lunch Program Manager and Parent of Kealey '06
I am deeply saddened at the news of Joanne's passing. As a new employee at the McGillis School several years ago, I found myself being asked to sit next to Joanne at a school play. I had not yet met her and was intimidated to be sitting with the School's namesake benefactor. I introduced myself, sat down by her and she immediately began comfortably chatting - about the play, asking about my role, my family. She charmed me right out of the gate. As time went on, I looked forward to her visits to the School. "Hello gorgeous!" I would yell to her from as far away as I could, hoping to make a scene and cause Joanne some unsolicited embarrassment. She would give me a warm hug and say "Ugh, today I'm not feeling it!" Joanne was generous in every way and we are all better for having known her. Peace to the McGillis family and to all who where touched by Joanne and a special thank you to Farron for her kindness and care.
~Michael VanTyne, McGillis Staff & Parent