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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Obituary - Jo-Ann (Porter) VanMeter

Jo-Ann (Porter) VanMeter, 89, Harrisonville, Missouri, passed away Saturday, July 24, 2021 at the Kansas City Hospice House in Kansas City, MO. A celebration of life will be held at the Harrisonville Community Center on what would have been Jo-Ann’s 90th birthday, Sunday, August 29, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. 

We welcome all friends and family. Please come as you are and stay as long as you’d like. We’ll have food, drinks and memories to share. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to Kansas City Hospice House in Jo-Ann’s name.

Jo-Ann was born in her family’s home in Harrisonville on August 29, 1931, the youngest child of Theodore and Zedna (Bramhall) Porter. They weren’t expecting a new addition to their family and always told Jo-Ann she was their “surprise blessing.”

Jo-Ann spent her entire life in Harrisonville. She graduated from Harrisonville High School in 1949 with a group of friends that remained close from the first grade throughout their lives. Her first job was at Bowman’s Photography Studio on the Square, where she was working the day she met Robert “Bob” VanMeter. On May 13, 1951, they were married at the First Christian Church in Harrisonville. Together they built Van’s Flowers and Things. Many fondly remember this fantastic little shop that was a mainstay on the Harrisonville Square for 38 years. Jo-Ann designed beautiful arrangements, and of all the stories shared over the past few weeks, the ones involving her creativity and generosity in the flower shop were the best.

On New Year’s Eve, 1955, they welcomed their only child, Robert “Bob” Van Meter, into the world. He fit right into their lives and grew up in the flower shop beside them as they worked.

Jo-Ann and Bob loved taking Bobby on trips around the country. They could often be found hauling back all the “treasures” they’d purchased strapped to the top of the car and hanging out the windows. When Bob introduced his parents to a Dutch foreign exchange student named Annemieke Jansen in 1973, she was welcomed into their home with open arms. A few years later she returned to Harrisonville, this time to stay. Jo-Ann was thrilled to finally have a “daughter” and always loved Annemieke as her own.

Bob and Annemieke’s daughter, Monique, joined the family and the flower shop in 1979. Jo-Ann didn’t know it yet, but she had found her new partner in crime. As far as grandmothers and granddaughters go, you’d be hard-pressed to find another pair that loved and enjoyed each other as much as they did. They traveled, played every card game under the sun, shopped, tried new restaurants, and did blind taste-tests to find the best French fries in town. Jo-Ann was even known to drop in on Monique during her years at MU and go to a college class or two with her. During Monique’s internship in New York City, Jo-Ann came to visit and stayed an extra week because there was just too much more to see and do. Their adventures were endless, and their time together was precious.

In 2011, Brice Porter Comstock was born, and Jo-Ann was able to care for him the first few years of his life. When Monique would chide her for holding him too much or letting him sleep in her arms instead of his crib, she’d simply dismiss it and say, “There’s never any harm in loving a baby too much.”

In one of her journal entries from 2013 she wrote, “Today I am staying with my great-grandson, Brice at his house. 55 years ago, my son was this age. I don’t remember him being so busy or noisy. But I wasn’t 81 years old then.” Brice was truly her pride and joy.

Jo-Ann enjoyed many hobbies throughout her life, including genealogy, traveling, playing cards, handwork, and exploring the “city” with friends. She loved a good estate sale and could never pass up a bargain (if you don’t believe it, come take a look at her basement). She was a member of P.E.O. Chapter GR, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the Cass County Family History Guild. She devoted countless hours volunteering at the original Cass County Historical Society at The Margaret Wade Archive and was always so pleased when she made a discovery that led someone closer to their ancestry.

The past few years took their toll on Jo-Ann physically, leaving her unable to do many of the things she enjoyed or see the friends she loved so dearly. She remained homebound, but cherished outings to restaurants or family gatherings when she was able to attend. She never took a moment for granted and always thanked those who reached out to her for their time—and never asked for anything in return. She was the embodiment of the word ‘love’ and there was never a human so selfless.

She was once asked what she wanted to be remembered for. Her response was, “That I was a morally good woman, a good mother, grandmother and friend. I recently found an ancestor’s tombstone with the engraving, ‘She did all she could do.’” And Jo-Ann truly did all she could do.

Jo-Ann was preceded in death by her parents, Zedna and Ted Porter, her husband, Bob Van Meter, one brother, Ted, and two sisters, Elizabeth “Sis” Coble and Helen Little Flack. She is survived by her son, Bob Van Meter and his wife Annemieke; her granddaughter, Monique Comstock; her great-grandson, Brice Comstock; her nieces, Judy Berry (Richard), Jo-Ann Jennings, and many treasured friends.