JoAnn E. Ziebarth, 67, of Oak Park, died on July 18, 2023. Born in DeKalb, Illinois to Leon and Evelyn Ziebarth, she was later adopted by her stepfather, Ross Young. She excelled at DeKalb High School, where she was editor of the yearbook, then attended the University of Iowa for two years and graduated from Northern Illinois University, where she was a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the national English honor society. She was a respected editor with a long career working for a variety of companies and organizations, including Applied Learning, the National Association of Realtors, Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), and American Institutes for Research (AIR). At AIR, she worked with authors and educators around the country on materials addressing topics such as bullying, access to high-quality education, and diversity in the classroom. Her knowledge, dedication, and easygoing persona endeared her to colleagues, who often requested her help with their projects.
Outside of work, she applied her talents to projects she was passionate about. As a board member of the Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association (OPALGA+) during the early 2000s, she edited their newsletter, Empower. A lifelong aficionado of Broadway and Hollywood, she adored the singers Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Liza Minelli, and Andrea Marcovicci. She enjoyed attending plays and concerts with her friend since high school, Ross Fraser, and with her partner, Karen Osborne. An avid reader of literary fiction, poetry and drama, she shared her deep insights and sharp wit with her friends.
JoAnn was preceded in death by her parents; her sister, Christine Ziebarth Howe; her stepsister, Pat (Pete) Darling; and her close friend, Ross Fraser. She is survived by her former partner, Karen Osborne; her stepsisters, Betty (Pierre) Lartigaud and Virginia (John) Pachay; and many who loved her and will miss her.
A celebration of life will be held at Unity Temple, 875 Lake St. in Oak Park, on Sept. 16 at 1:30 p.m. Her ashes will be interred at Fairview Cemetery in DeKalb.
Donations in her memory may be made to the scholarship fund she founded to honor her sister: The Christine Ziebarth Howe Graduate Student Award, University of Illinois Foundation, Harker Hall, 1305 W. Green St., Urbana, IL 61801-2962. Donations may also be made to the Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association (OPALGA+) Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 1460, Oak Park, IL 60304.