Cover photo for JoAn S. Brenner's Obituary
JoAn S. Brenner Profile Photo

JoAn S. Brenner

October 23, 2009 — October 21, 2009

JoAn S. Brenner


Highlands Today

Published: October 23, 2009

SEBRING - The community lost one of its cultural leaders with the death Wednesday of Jo Brenner, 70, of Sebring, who was the wife of downtown Sebring merchant Gene Brenner. They shared 30 years of marriage together.
A week ago Wednesday, Mrs. Brenner suffered a massive stroke. After a week at Tampa General Hospital, she never regained consciousness.
After Jo Brenner was rushed to the Florida Hospital Emergency Room she was airlifted to the Tampa trauma center, and remained in that unit for nine hours before they moved her to the neuroscience ICU.
Brenner said his wife died as the result of an existing brain tumor for which she had received treatment since it was discovered in 1995.

Without warning

The past 14 years has had its worries and concerns, said Brenner, but many of those who knew her never knew this because she was always happy, friendly and put her heart and soul into everything she did.
There were no warning signs, and she suffered no pain, he said.
"I have been assured that I could not have done anything to prevent this," he said. "This happened in her sleep. It's been a week and three hours since Jo and I spoke.
"When she went back to rest last week she said, 'Wake me at 9 (a.m.) so I can get ready for Lunch Club Wednesday,' and 'I love you.' I also told her that I loved her, too. Those were the last words that we spoke to each other."
She was his best friend, partner in life, wife, lover and everything to him, he said, but ultimately he took her off life support as was her wish.
"We made plans for our future many years ago, and decided that when the time came, each of us would make the right choice for each other when we weren't able to make that decision on our own," he said.
With family and friends at his side, he had the responsibility to make the most painful decision he ever had to make, he said. To say, "Stop!"
"At 10 a.m. (Wednesday) I ordered, according to her wishes, an order to remove here life support systems," Brenner wrote in an e-note to family and friends. "They did this and I was next to her until her last gasp for breath. She was a beautiful sight without all those tubes attached to her. She passed on at 12:20 p.m. and I told her to wait for me so we can continue our love affair later."

Their life together

Jo Brenner was a former Highlands County school teacher, teaching at Lake Placid High School and retiring from Woodlawn Elementary School. She taught for 36 years; 26 of those years in Highlands County.
"We actually did meet through the schools," said Gene Brenner, who taught school himself before they both retired 11 years ago. "It was at a teachers' self-enhancing education workshop. We would see each other every year at the start of school..."
She became divorced. He had been separated. He suggested they meet.
"She said, 'Come on down and we'll talk' and we never stopped talking after that," said Brenner, fondly recalling the memory. "We got together and we were inseparable. We did everything together - laughed and cried. She became my soul mate."

Jo Brenner was the president of the Heartland Cultural Alliance. Its members include masters of theater and stagecraft, museums, celebrated writers, cultural and concert promoters, percussion artists, and many more, according to its Web site.

Mourning begins

"She was one of the most delightful people I've ever known," said Pete Pollard, who has known the couple for many years. "She could light up a room. She was very much involved in art and culture in Highlands County."
"It's one of the saddest times I've personally gone through," said Robin Hinote, who was at the hospital Wednesday with Gene Brenner's son Mason. "She was so very welcoming. She welcomed me and my children into her home. She was definitely a light in the community."
She was always known for motoring around in her lavender 1970 Volkswagen bug. It sat quietly Thursday where it had been parked in Brenner's garage.
The Brenner home is filled with warm touches as might be expected by people involved in the arts. She had a special affection for giraffes and their home is filled with giraffe statues, photos, paintings, glass works, puppets, even a giraffe chair.
"She loved (giraffes)," said Brenner. "They were so striking and she envied their beauty and tallness because she was so short. She was a five-foot dynamo; full of life. She enjoyed everything she did, attending movies, plays, theater. She was involved at SFCC in the artist series. We always sponsored one of its performances."
She loved to cook, said Brenner.
"She always used to say, I'll have dinner on the table in 27 minutes," he said. "I can't cook. Jo would say, 'It's your night to cook,' and I'd say, 'OK where do you want to go out to eat.'"
Jo Brenner was a regular attendee of the Lunch Club Wednesday, at the Elks Club, was active in a retired teachers' organization and was on the board of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Avon Park.
She is survived by her son Billy Webber, daughters Rennae Webber and RJ Driggers, as well as her stepson Mason Brenner and stepdaughter Mica Jablonowski and nine grandchildren and sister Linda Palmieri, in Ohio.
A visitation will be held at the Morris Funeral Chapel, at 307 S. Commerce Ave., in Sebring. The time and day will be announced.

Following a ceremony, she will ultimately be cremated and her ashes buried at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, of which she was a member.

Highlands Today reporter Joe Seelig can be reached at 863-386-5834 or


Dear Family, Friends, and all who know my wife Jo:

I am in tears constantly and must I must inform you that on last Wednesday A.M. Jo suffered a massive bleed in her brain. You might know this as a stroke.
She was rushed to the ER via ambulance, some tests where run and they immediately rushed her to Tampa General Hospital Trauma Center via helicopter. She was in that unit for 9 hours before they moved her to Neuroscience ICU. More tests Cat Scan, MRI, EEG, and too many more to remember. She has been under the best watchful and caring team of professionals.
Some history. In late 1995 Jo was diagnosed with a brain tumor. We found a wonderful team at Shands Hospital in Gainsville that would even consider trying to help. Because of the location, surgery was impossible and they did (at the time) an experimental treatment on her. Her condition was tracked every 6 months for 3 or 4 years, then once a year after that. About 4 years ago they said that we did not need to travel to Gainsville, but she could do the MRI locally and send the results up to them. The tumor had been 99% eliminated. Her MRI had been scheduled for last Friday. The past 14 years has had it's worries and concerns and some of you never knew this because if you know Jo, she was always happy, friendly, and put her heart and soul into everything she did.
This bleed or stroke was caused by the original tumor, by some of the remains of veins or what was left in her brain. There are no warning signs, and she suffered no pain. I have been assured that I could not have done anything to prevent this. This happened in her sleep. The bleed has done so much damage that she could remain this way forever. I have to and so do you, remember her warm and vibrant personality. She would want it this way.
Jo is my best friend, partner in life, wife, lover, and everything to me. We made plans for our future many years ago, and decided that when the time came, each of us would make the right choice for each other when we weren't able to make that decision on our own.
All of the family is here with me or has been and I have the responsibility to say the hardest thing anyone will have to make. Stop... Jo is not in any pain.

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Update # ? Wednesday Oct. 21, 2009 10:17 A M

Jo Brenner

It has been 1 week and 3 hours since Jo and I spoke. When she went back to rest last week she said, "wake me at 9:00 so I can get ready for Lunch Club Wednesday and I Love You". I also told her that I loved her too. Those were the last words that we spoke to each other.

My every moment, thoughts, and prayers, except when I went to eat or catch some sleep, have been with her. I need to let you know that the staff at the hospital, the Doctors, nurses, support staff were wonderful, and tried to do everything possible for her.


Her spirit and soul will remain with me forever, but the request has been reluctantly made to remove her life support so she can move on to be with her God. She truly loved the church much more the past years.


The story goes on about Jo

Well this has been my first whole day without Jo physically by my side. I can't get her out of my mind. She is my best friend, my wife and we shared everything with each other. She always thanked me for filling her every need and spoiling her with everything she wanted. But let me tell you that she did the same to me.
I know that I was happy with her no matter where we were. I know that I was happy with her no matter what we did. I know that I was happy with her as we traveled our lives through it's ups and downs for we always were there to talk and comfort each other. Over the past few days since this carepages website started for her, I have read the many wonderful things that have been written about her. I knew a lot of these things but many of you refreshed my memory of how caring she was. My computer is full of kind words about. I really do appreciate reading all of them.
I heard from a friend today of how when he lost his wife and this new friend came into his life, how Jo befriended her and was warm to her and made her feel comfortable and welcome. He said that she will never forget that, well you all know Jo and that's what made her the way we will always remember her. She was helpful, friendly, supportive, and a committed person to everyone and everything she was involved in. Her love of her faith and it's teachings made her forgive all. She is a devout Catholic and I a not so religious Jew. Everyone would say "how do you get along so well". Well we did and most of you know I went to church with her always out of respect to her. I truly love her and I think you all know that. It's not late, but I have put in a full day today with phone calls and visitors. Today I learned how to use the washer & dryer. Tomorrow is another day and another page of thoughts of Jo.

Keep the emails and comments on the web site coming. They are greatly appreciated.




BRENNER, JO, age 70 of Sebring, FL was called home to be with the Angels on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at Tampa General Hospital, Tampa, FL. Jo was a graduate with a Masters Degree from the University of Miami, Miami, Ohio. She taught school for ten years in Parma, Ohio moving to Sebring in 1972. She taught at Lake Placid High School and retired from Woodlawn Elementary. Jo was involved in many organizations; a past president of the Beta Sigma Phi Soriety, Pi Phi Chapter; a member of the Highlands County Retired Educators, Assoc. and Florida Educators, Assoc.; Wednesday monthly lunch club, meets at Sebring Elks Lodge; Highlands Art League; Advisory Board of South Florida Community College, Cultural Series; President of the Cultural Alliance; Active with the Downtown Sebring Gallery Walk and most visible at Gene Brenner's Pottery Shop and also active with many other downtown events. A very active member of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, Avon Park where she served as a Sunday School Teacher and was very involved in the youth programs. Jo is survived by her loving and devoted husband, Gene; daughters, Rennae Schaeffer, R.J. Driggers and son, Billy Weber; grandson, Colton Lee Driggers; step-son, Mason Brenner and step-daughter, Mica Jablonowski; sister, Linda Palmieri and nine grandchildren. Visitation, 6-8 pm, Friday, October 30th at Morris Funeral Chapel, 307 S. Commerce Ave, Sebring. A Mass will be celebrated 11:00 a.m., Saturday, October 31st at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, Avon Park. A reception will follow at the church. Memorials are requested to Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, Sunday School of Religion in her name. MORRIS FUNERAL CHAPEL.


Born: October 10, 1939
Death: October 21, 2009
Occupation: Educator

Survived By

Eugene B. Brenner, Spouse
Billy Weber, Son
Rennae Schaeffer, Daughter
Romi Jo , Daughter
Colton Lee Driggers, Grandson
Mason Brenner, Step-Son
Mica Jablonowski, Step-Daughter
Linda Palmieri, Sister
nine grandchildren

Preceded In Death By

Albert Sasak, Father
Helen (Szabo) Sasak, Mother

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