Joanne (Jo) Christine Schaefer 1947-2013

OctJo3With the recent passing of long time Mid-City resident, Jo Schaefer, we have lost an avid, dedicated community activist and supportive friend of many.  Jo began her activism as the first student director of the Educational Participation In Communities (EPIC) program out of Cal State L.A. where she organized students to volunteer for community service in order to implement  classroom theory in real life situations. She was a VISTA student community organizer in North Carolina and a national  consultant/evaluator for 15 years of Federally funded, social service programs.  Jo was also a founding member of the local Mid-City Neighborhood Council (MINC) and 10- year board member, a lifelong volunteer in health and education and she spent 25 years as a systems analyst in financial and health institutes.  


I met Jo during my visits to MINC where we became fast friends. I enjoyed long discussions with her about community group politics and the principles and responsibilities of community leadership.  She was an enthusiastic supporter of The Neighborhood News and its mission to inform and connect residents.  She could always be counted on to offer support and advice.  When we asked community leaders to talk about issues that community groups struggle with, Jo submitted the following:

"It's always difficult, when dealing with the 'community', be it your block, neighborhood, or city area, to stay relevant and attuned to the needs and desires of the people who make up that entity, especially when your role is to represent.  Often we are stuck in the past with a definition of our neighborhood that no longer exists.  New neighbors move in who want to change the status quo.   And who, after all, speaks for the "community"?  As these organizations form and grow and age there is a real danger that new voices or opposing voices get beaten back, belittled, drowned out.  Group representatives get entrenched.  "We know what's best for you" - a frequent political mantra. 

The best solution is constant evaluation.  Annual surveys: are we working on the issues that matter to you?  Has our presence made this neighborhood better?  Do you feel you have a voice in this organization?  And not just annually but building a constant dialogue with our neighbors and self-valuation as to our effectiveness."

I have included testimonials from people who were close friends and colleagues.  We all agree that she is and will be sorely missed. 

From Nazalie Elmassian longtime friend:

Jo was on the board of the OctJO2Friends of the Library at the Washington Irving branch.  I became a member and we became good friends over the years.  Jo was a delightful and fun person to be with.  I admired her keen mind  and the way that she expressed herself. We enjoyed the Pico Shopping District Walk [sponsored by The Neighborhood News], the museum and other last minute activities.  I knew that Jo played the piano and organ at the church but when I saw Chopin Etudes on the display table at the memorial celebrating her life, I learned that she was an accomplished pianist. Jo gave of herself to others and was a true joy to be with. 

From George Graham and The Community Coalition:

Jo Schaefer will always be remembered as a friend and devoted community activist. For many years she served on the "Community Coalition Council" (CCC) which helped to provide input, guidance and leadership to other volunteers as well as staff. She was able to engage in intense outreach because of her involvement with the Mid-City Neighborhood Council, her block club and many other community programs. She attended hearings at City Hall, L.A County Bldg. and Sacramento. She took trips with CoCo on occasion would sponsor others if she could not attend. She was always part of the fund-raising efforts of CoCo while a member. When she drove, she used to help pick up and drop people off on occasions. She lived near downtown LA and drove to all our events until her until her health started to take its toll on her eyes. Although she could not drive any longer, she continued to be active while taking the bus to Community Coalition events.  She was very dedicated to the support of Community Coalition, Congressmember Karen Bass (CoCo founder) and all of the Los Angeles community. She will be dearly missed and never forgotten.

From friend, longtime neighbor and fellow community activist, Chin Thammasaengsri:

I knew Jo as part of two “states of existence.” The first was as a kid growing up on Lafayette Rd. and the second as an adult who continued to live there.  Jo was a great role model, committed to her causes, had a colorful life, didn’t quit even when her body couldn’t keep up, was opinionated, the one I called to for advice and good conversation. She was loyal, funny and fearless, never took herself too seriously and finally and most importantly was  My Friend.

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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