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Joanne M. Penza

Joanne M. Penza, 80, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., formerly of Woodstock, died Tuesday Feb. 12, 2013, at Riverview Hospital in Wisconsin Rapids.

She was born Dec. 3, 1932, in Racine, Wis., to Frank and Clara (Mueller) Braun.

In 1954, she married Don Penza, captain of the 1953 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. 

She enjoyed growing strawberries, sports, and mastering the art of sewing. 

Her athleticism rivaled that of her husband. A fearless competitor, even the occasional black eye from playing baseball with the boys didn’t discourage her zeal for the game. As a Junior Belle in the 1940s, she was said to have scored the tying run in the 3-2 extra-inning victory over the Rockford Peaches. She passed on her dexterity, balance, gumption and practicality to her children and grandchildren. 

She wore the pill box hat well, kept her children neatly dressed and on task and took her place as the Newcomer’s Club president. She hosted morning Coffee Klutch gatherings and contributed elements of confidence in her husband, support for his ambitions and was a guide during times of change and turmoil. She would help her husband govern Wisconsin Rapids, run a small business and, one day, stand next to him after winning his third state football championship for Marian Central Catholic High School. 

She knew her role for his success and still sought her own opportunities to grow and expand her skills. She eventually obtained her real estate license and became one of the top selling agents in her community. 

She was widowed at 56 and became the sole support for her family, who she comforted, counseled, made jokes with and passed on nuggets of wisdom to. Her contribution to her marriage, children and accomplishments will not be forgotten and she will be missed. 

Survivors include four sons, Don (Cherie), Rich (Karen), Pat (Sue) and Greg (Brandi); three daughters, Jan (Dan), Beth (Walter) and Kris (Matt); 21 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren; and two brothers, Jerry (Sue) and Don (Carol) Braun. 

She was preceded in death by her husband; twin daughters, Rose Mary and Mary Clare; her parents; two sisters, Cecilia Dailey and  Evelyn Jonas; and two brothers, Edmund and Frank Braun. 

Visitation was Feb. 15 at Schneider-Leucht-Merwin & Cooney Funeral Home, Woodstock. The funeral Mass was Feb. 16 at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, Crystal Lake. Interment was at Calvary Cemetery, Woodstock

Memorials can be sent to The Donald F. Penza College Scholarship Trust, C/O Beth McKinney, 27044 Channel Lane, Valencia CA 91355.

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