JoAnne Wayrynen

JoAnne "Jo" Wayrynen

November 6th, 1938 - November 16th, 2019
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JoAnne "Jo" Wayrynen, 81, of Watertown passed away on November 16, 2019 at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls.

Jo was born on November 6, 1938 in Los Angeles, CA to Fred and Gladys (McKay) Benz, and was soon after adopted by "Dad", Lonnie Wietgrefe, when he married Gladys in November of 1940.

Jo graduated from Watertown High School in 1956, and went on to pursue her teaching certificate from Northern State University in Aberdeen and a bachelor's degree in History from Dakota State University in Madison. During her early career in elementary education she taught in Castlewood and Scotland, SD.

She married Lynn Wayrynen in 1964, and together they had three children: Shawn, Laura, and Michelle. In the words of Lynn's cousin, Leland Olson, "The Lord puts opposites together and then sits back and smiles, as they try to bring out the best in each other." Although they eventually parted ways, Jo told her kids that she never had any regrets because in her words, "I wouldn't change anything that brought you three kids into my life."

Beyond her family, the focus of Jo's life was on helping other people-- be that as an educator, an activist for women's rights, a volunteer for various family services agencies like Habitat for Humanity, and as the Executive Director of the Women's Resource Center (now the Beacon Center) in Watertown. She served the community in this position for over 20 years up until her retirement in November 2005.

For herself, Jo enjoyed the arts in all forms, and particularly enjoyed classic movies. Her kids would often tease her by changing the color settings on the television to black & white, tuning into MTV, and exclaiming her words, "If it's in black & white, it must be good!" She was always an avid reader, and her musical tastes ran from classical to doo-wop to rock, or whatever her kids were listening to. She would go to all of the local live music that she could, and particularly liked the Thursday Night Live outdoor concerts in downtown Watertown.

Jo had a group of very close friends who for years would meet the first and third Friday of every month for dinner at each others' houses. Jo's favorite month to host was December. She loved to decorate her house and yard for all holidays, but Christmas in particular was special to her. It makes sense because it's the season of giving, which was what Jo was all about. She was also a member of the local Red Hat Mamas group, and a lifelong member of St. Martin's Lutheran Church in Watertown.

Jo remained very active in her later years, always surprising people who thought she was much younger than she was. She was always very strong-willed, successfully fighting stage 3 breast cancer in 2016-17. She had an infectious energy, a whimsical disposition, and a silly sense of humor, and she loved Christmas, cats, and her two grandkids, Alex & Gracie, the joys of her life.

Jo is survived by her daughters, Laura (Michael) Shaeffer of Fairbanks, AK and Michelle (Jamie) Kakacek of Watertown, her grandchildren, Alexander and Grace Kakacek, and her kitty, Mittens.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Lonnie & Gladys Wietgrefe, her brother, Irvin Wietgrefe, her sister, Lorraine Benthin, and her son, Shawn.

Those wishing to honor Jo with a memorial gift are encouraged to give to an organization of their choice that provides support to members of their local community who are in need.

Visitation will be from 5-7 pm on Thursday, November 21st, and a service will be held at 10:30 am on Friday, November 22nd at the Wight & Comes Funeral Chapel in Watertown, followed by interment at Mount Hope Cemetery.
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Service Details

  • Visitation

    Thursday November 21st, 2019 | 5:00pm - 7:00pm
    Thursday November 21st, 2019 5:00pm - 7:00pm
    Wight & Comes Funeral Chapel
    1111 4th St NE
    WATERTOWN, SD 57201
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
  • Service

    Friday November 22nd, 2019 | 10:30am
    Friday November 22nd, 2019 10:30am
    Wight & Comes Funeral Chapel
    1111 4th St NE
    WATERTOWN, SD 57201
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
  • Interment

    Mount Hope Cemetery
    1133 11th St. NE
    WATERTOWN, SD 57201
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


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Private Condolence
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Jan Mullin

Posted at 01:11pm
Sincere sympathy to Jo's family - she was a very giving woman.

Leland, Karen, Sandra & Lynn

Posted at 11:59am
Our sympathy to the family.
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