Ada Jo Ann Hudspeth (Hollis), 83, of Guntersville, transitioned to Heaven and met Jesus Christ on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, at Hospice Family Care in Huntsville.
Jo Ann was born in Bessemer, Alabama, on July 25, 1936. She was raised in the Mars Hill community by her parents Louis and Ellie Hollis. Jo Ann was a class of 1954 honor graduate of Shades Valley High School in Birmingham. She graduated valedictorian and "Most Intellectual" at Lee College in Cleveland, TN in 1956 with a degree in English.
At age 11, Jo Ann became a born-again Christian. She was eager to share her love for God and "called a meeting" in her father's barn for the children and adults in her community. Using an old wooden orange crate as her pulpit, Jo Ann preached her first message, and 8 people gave their hearts to Christ.
She conducted her first revival at age 14 and became a licensed minister in the Church of God in 1956. Since money was scarce during this time, Jo Ann would often receive vegetables from gardens and once received a live chicken in a coup as form of payment. Her mother was very pleased to receive this offering. Jo Ann considered it an equal blessing from the Lord.
Jo Ann was a natural beauty inside and out. As an evangelist, she was pursued by many churches and suitors. She was spoken for by the first cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley, and Jimmy Swaggart, but she gave her heart to evangelist F. Wendell Hudspeth after he "fell in love" with her photo in the Lee College Vindagua yearbook. He pursued Jo Ann by following and attending her speaking engagements. Being "love struck," Wendell noticed an empty seat next to her at a church meeting and asked, "Is this seat saved for me?" She replied with "Yes," and they married nine days later on July 16, 1956. Together, they forged a 64 year marriage of ministry.
Jo Ann had a 35-year career at UAB Hospital in Birmingham in hospital business office management. Her daily round-trip commute was 150 miles.
After retiring at UAB, she joined Marshall Medical Centers and served in a similar role before retiring after 14 years. In 1998, Jo Ann wrote an article for UAB titled "Then and Now: A Stroll Down Memory Lane (1962-1997)." It was so well received, the University requested her as a featured speaker to share her experiences from her 35-year tenure. Jo Ann received several awards at both UAB and Marshall Medical Centers. She was a member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, where she was an officer and HFMA/CPAR coach. As a retiree, Jo Ann was active with the Marshall County RSVP Tax Preparation.
Jo Ann's pastoral legacy with Bishop Hudspeth has touched many churches throughout Alabama. Their longest and most recent pastoral residence was a 30-year tenure at Trinity Tabernacle Church of God in Albertville. They retired at Trinity in 2018. They pastored twice in Guntersville and built the Guntersville Church of God, now known as The River Church. Other local churches they pastored include the Arab Church of God and the Straight Creek Church of God in Fyffe. Other Church of God pastorships in Alabama include Uniontown, Old Davis Town, Overton, Pell City, Tarrant City, and Pratt Highway. They also pastored Winona Church of God in Mississippi.
After retiring from Trinity, Jo Ann continued to serve as church treasurer and ministered each Sunday for memory care residents at Bridgewood Gardens in Albertville until March of this year.
Jo Ann was not just a pastor’s wife, minister, Sunday school teacher, organist, children’s church teacher, and church treasurer, she was also "Resident Chef” and would prepare weekly Sunday meals for over 30 church members in her home.
Jo Ann prepared the weekly Sunday church bulletins which included a section dedicated to her spiritually inspirational writings. She sent thousands of these bulletins to friends, family, and anyone who requested to be her "pen pal." Jo Ann's bulletin messages (with a personalized note) were lifelines of happiness, and many would contact her inquiring when the next one was scheduled to arrive. Many have stated that they have a section of church bulletins saved to read when they need uplifting, a word from the Lord, or just a hug from Jo Ann.
Jo Ann had a love for animals (especially the underdog and ceramic mice) and a natural green thumb for plants and flowers. She had a knack for finding four-leaf-clovers, was a word game wiz, a grammar expert, and loved watching game shows and solving true crime shows. She was an excellent public speaker, writer, and life historian.
Although her talents were many, thousands of lives would agree that her biggest gift was encouragement. Jo Ann had the ability to find the loneliest and shyest person in the room and make them feel the most important. She would immediately adopt you into her life and pledge to walk with you through yours. Jo Ann's heart was molded from Christ’s Love, and she dedicated her life to often sending 20 or more handwritten cards and letters a day to inspire, celebrate birthdays, or include a get well prayer to the recipients.
Jo Ann was often called Mom, Mammy, Jo, Mama Jo, and Maw Maw, but most referred to her as a "Saint" and an "Angel on Earth." Her mission in life may be summed up by Jo Ann, herself, when she was quoted in "Youth in the Spotlight" publication shortly after she and her husband married. Jo Ann stated, "My desire for life is to live an unselfish, dedicated, and consecrated life for Christ that I may carry the light of salvation to a darkened world and be a constant blessing to others." 40 years later, Jo Ann was asked by her son, Shon, "What does success mean to you?" She replied, "To be a blessing to others." He then asked her, "What is your goal today?" Jo Ann replied, "To be a blessing to another." Anyone who knew or met her would agree she was a "huge success."
Jo Ann loved, adored, and stood by "her man," Wendell. Wendell would always greet her with "Hello my beautiful darling!" He always loved for her to wear yellow, because she was the "sunshine" of his life. It is hard to believe that a minister brags about stealing! However, Wendell loves to boast about how he won the prize by "stealing Jo Ann" from other boyfriends and the world. He is waiting for the music of "Harvest Time" so that he can sing with her again and hold her hand forever.
Jo Ann's daughter and first born, Shaina, says to her mom, "I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you." (The last "I love you" was so she would have one more than her brothers.)
Jo Ann's oldest son, Todd, was asked to describe his mother. His reply was, "If there are angels among us, she was a true example. I’ve never heard her say a negative word against anyone (regardless of whether they deserved it). With Mom, there was never a doubt you were always loved. Many people wished they had her as their earthly Mother. I was truly blessed to have experienced her lifelong commitment as a servant to her Lord and Mother to everyone. With all of her "adopted" children, we were never jealous as there was always plenty of love to go around and she taught "all" of her children to do the same."
Her middle son, Shon, shared, "Mom taught me to listen to my heart and Dad taught me to follow it. I will always remember the sparkle in her eyes, open arms for hugs and kisses as we arrived home or simply woke from a nap." "Mom stating, 'Son, you never need to worry, you have Mom and Dad' will be a forever comfort to my heart. She always knew when to send the perfect text, phone call, Facebook post, or card to let you know she was "thinking of you" (and she was thinking of you often). I considered it a privilege to "do her hair" and remind her that she was beautiful. Her support and compliments of my artwork were often all that I needed to be inspired to keep creating. I will miss my extra peanut butter pie, cherry cream cheese pie, and blue berry cream cheese pie that she would make 'just for me' to take home during the holidays. Her reason was so that I could taste "my mother's love" with every bite. Her sweetest gesture was a text to your phone of how much she enjoyed your visit as you were driving away." "Mom said 'Don't give up on me.'" "I never did and never will. Thank you for introducing me to Christ, my greatest gift. I pledge to live a life to honor and please you and our Heavenly Father. Remember "our promise" to watch over me, and I will be listening for you. Give Farrah a hug for me, I love you both, but she knows I love you more. You are both 'My Angels' now."
Her youngest son, B.B., stated, "I have never witnessed my mother do anything that would be displeasing to our Heavenly Father. I have never once seen her in a bad mood or express anger. Mom has always had a tender heart for the underprivileged and mistreated. I will always cherish our coffee times, her making me salads, our little office visits, our laughs, her hugs of appreciation, and her words of comfort, encouragement, reassurance, and affirmation. I am so appreciative of the countless times I utilized her tireless expertise to proof my writings without ever a complaint. I took joy working and driving side by side and sharing conversations of God's love and her concern for and personal attention to me. I always looked forward to her suggesting, 'Let's get a little something sweet!' I am honored that she entrusted me with her needs. Mom's presence made it feel like Christmas all year long." "I love you Mom. You were never a burden; it was a JOY to serve you. The Coffee is Ready."
All four of her children recount the love notes on paper towels waiting on the counter when we got up to start the day and the "woo hoo" response when you would call her name. Her tender voice, a piece of gum, and beautiful nails could calm any frustration or situation while she was rubbing your head or scratching your back. Each child can visualize both of their parents waving 'good bye' from the front porch or yard as they were leaving from a visit and their request to 'Call me when you get home to let me know you made it safely, no matter the time.' They were always waiting to answer that call from each child. If you ever forgot, you would soon be receiving a call for validation.
If Jo Ann was to contribute her own scripture verse to the Bible, she would declare, "Everything and everyone matters, yhe smallest gesture of kindness can change the world - forgo pomp and circumstance, pass by the royalty and robes, come here and give me a hug!"
Jo Ann is survived by her husband, Bishop Wendell Hudspeth of Guntersville; her daughter Shaina Gilbreath of Gainesville, Florida; her sons Todd Hudspeth of Langston, Shon Hudspeth of Nashville, Tennessee, and Brien "B.B." Hudspeth of Guntersville; brothers Donald Hollis (Janice) of Jemison, John "Tommy" Hollis of Jemison, and Steve Hollis of McCalla; sisters: Margie Wyatt (Harlan) of Bessemer and Glenda Hollis of McCalla; grandchildren Jennifer Hudspeth Johnson (Nate), Allen Hudspeth, Caleb Hudspeth, Brittany Gilbreath, Shain Gilbreath, and Ren Hudspeth; great grandchildren Tyson Hudspeth, Jayden Hudspeth, Max Johnson, and Audrianna Grace Johnson. She is also survived by countless "adopted children" and her beloved pet, Kona Bear.