Mary Jo Risinger, 90, died peacefully on January 30, 2021, surrounded by family at her home in Indianapolis.
She was born June 6, 1930, the fourth and youngest child of Ernest Clifford and Louise (Schmidt) Kelley. She was raised on a farm in Shelburn, Indiana and later in Terre Haute, where she attended Wiley High School and Indiana State University. Mary Jo and her husband Jack were married in Terre Haute in 1950. Their first child was born there. After brief stays in Sellersburg and Indianapolis, they arrived in Charlestown in 1955, with two young children. Two more would be added in the ensuing years.
She finished college, and received a master’s degree, at Spalding University, in Louisville. She went on to teach generations of students at Jonathan Jennings Elementary School. She loved, and was loved by, a group of teachers and school employees who remained lifetime friends.
Mary Jo loved the old house on Water Street in Charlestown, where she and Jack raised their four children. She coddled and prodded it for more than 40 years, and endured with (mostly) good humor some of Jack’s most outlandish remodeling ideas.
Mary Jo was a longtime member of the Charlestown First United Methodist Church and she had an abiding faith that she would again meet Jack, who passed much too early in 2005. She hoped to be greeted by the sparkle in his eye that charmed her on their first (blind) date on a dance floor in Linton, Indiana.
Mary Jo believed that roots, and then wings, were the most important gifts to give a child. She loved her children steadfastly as their lives unfolded and brought eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren into her life. Her daughter, Gail Messmore (Doug), son Michael, son Jeff (Amy), each of Indianapolis, and her son Brad (Carolyn) of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, were lucky to call her mother, friend and Granny.
Mary Jo and Jack believed in the transformative power of education. They sacrificed much to educate their children. Mary Jo’s heart was dedicated to being a teacher in a small town. She marveled that on Halloween former students would appear on her front porch to introduce their costumed children and grandchildren.
In her memory, the family asks that expressions of sympathy be directed to local causes that support the teachers who help raise all our children.
Mary Jo lived her final years in Indianapolis, happily surrounded by family. She will return to Charlestown for a private, graveside service for immediate family.
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