August 17, 1931 - April 20, 2001
AGE 20 Joan Gibat on her AGE 38 Summer of 1969 AGE 61 1992 while
wedding day, October 28, 1950 While setting type in her print- visiting at 741 N. County-
Custar Church Custar Ohio ing business at 721 N. Porter line St. in Fostoria OHio
in Norman Oklahoma
Joan Rochefort was born to Myrtle (Woody) Tunison in Napoleon Ohio on August 17, 1931. Her father deserted her mother while Joan was still a baby; during the early depression years. Within a few years Myrtle remarried to Robert Rosenberger and they subsequently moved to Milton Center OH. In Milton, as the residents called it, Myrtle and Bob started a small grocery store on Sugar Street, the main street of Milton.
Although her full name was Mildred Joan Tunison she preferred her middle name and through most of her life pronounced it Jo-Ann. She did not like Mildred and when she had to give her full name she would give it as M. Joan Rochefort. In later life she preferred to call herself Joan instead of Jo-Ann.
Robert Rosenberger, who was considerably older than Myrtle, died soon after the birth of Joan's only brother, Bob. Joan's mother was left with a debt-ridden store in the middle of both a depression and a very small town. A retired lady in Milton, who was relatively wealthy and whose name is not known to this writer, decided that Milton needed a grocery store and that Myrtle needed a job. She loaned Myrtle the money to pay off her creditors and keep the store open. Myrtle was forever grateful for this unselfish act of kindness when her straits were, otherwise, so desperate. It was also due to this generosity that Milton Center was the only town Joan could recall in her youth. It was at Milton that Joan grew up, attended school, helped tend the family store, and graduated.
Joan fondly recalled the outdoor movies which were held during the depression and World War II days in Milton. A temporary screen was set up alongside the railroad tracks parallel to Sugar St., just across from the Elevator (now long gone). It was a magic glimpse of the "outside world" and she was fascinated by it all. She remembered the "Jackson Cutoff" as a place where she and her classmates ice-skated in the winter and waded in during the summer.
When she was very young Joan remembered an older man stopping by the house one day for a visit. While her mother watched he sat Joan on his lap and said "I'm your father." She can remember little about the visit. She never saw the man again and her mother never mentioned the incident again.
An interesting aside to those early times were the mores which were considered proper. Having been abandoned by her husband with a baby to raise during the depression it is no surprise that Myrtle had a very difficult time keeping food on the table and a roof over the table. There were no government programs to help the needy in those days and the private charities were severely overloaded. Consequently Myrtle fell behind in the payments to her doctor. Consequently he did not register the birth and Myrtle was unaware of this. When Joan applied for a Secret clearance when working for the government she discovered she did not exist. Since she had lived in Milton nearly all of her life it was a simple matter to find older neighbors and friends who could sign an affadavit swearing to her identity. The doctor was long dead.
In 1945 Myrtle gave Joan and Bob another father who worked hard to help provide a very stable and lasting home for the family. George Rochefort was preparing to retire from the Marine Corps in San Diego. He lived in the "valley" just outside of San Diego--now it is very much inside! Besides separating from the Marine Corps George was also separating from his wife, Violet. He met Myrtle through a small classified ad she had placed in a national magazine which specialized in match-making. George corresponded, then travelled to Ohio, liked what he saw, courted the still young Myrtle, and won her heart. They married in 1946 and both Joan and Bob took the name of Rochefort as their own. Joan and Bob assumed they were adopted and some hints were dropped that this was so. But, in fact, they were not. Nevertheless, George took on the task of helping to raise the two children as if they were his own. George and Myrtle had two more daughters together: Iola Rochefort Hofner and Emma Jean Rochefort Beckstein, both of whom survive.
George became involved in local politics almost immediately and because of this involvement was able to have the Milton Post Office moved into the grocery store which Myrtle owned. This provided the town with a post office which was open whenever the store was; about 12 hours a day. 6 days a week, at no extra cost to the Government. And it gave the family another much needed income stream.
Joan met her future husband, Norman Gibat, while she was tending the store in Milton Center. Norman lived in Fostoria and Norman's Grandfather, Henry Notestine, had recently moved to Milton. Henry had purchased a house near the North end of Sugar Street. When Norman visited his grandfather, during June of 1947, he went to the store to buy some Cain's Potato chips. Joan was tending the front counter along with Myrtle, her mother. Joan was not yet 16 and, by all accounts, was a very pretty young lady. Norman talked and joked with her and soon found an excuse to visit his grandfather a few more times that summer. However he enlisted in the Marine Corps in August of that summer and so did not meet her again for nearly a year.
After attending a Marine School at Camp Del Mar in California, Norman returned to Ohio on leave during the summer of 1948. Once again he travelled down the Mermill Road to Milton to talk to the young lady who worked in the store. Joan recalled this visit vividly throughout her life. It was a sunny summer afternoon when she was alone in the store. The family at that time lived directly above the store and used an outside stairway to get to their living quarters.
Joan and Norman talked and joked and he finally got around to asking her for a date. She accepted. They dated furiously for the remaining 3 weeks of his leave time. After which he departed for his new duty station at Pearl Harbor.
Norman returned to the States in 1950 and again visited Milton Center. Neither had yet married so the couple dated nearly every weekend during the summer and fall months. Norman proposed to Joan in the upstairs room of the house next to the store where they now lived. She accepted. They were married on October 28, 1950 at the Church in Custar OH. They had two children, Norman Edward who was born in Barstow, California on May 26, 1953 and George Gustaf who was born in Oklahoma City on January 13, 1959.
Joan and Norman were divorced in 1970, nearly 20 years later. Joan did not remarry. At the time of the divorce she was living in Norman OK.
When Joan left home in 1951 she first lived in San Diego CA and, by sheer coincidence, rented an apartment that was only 2 houses away from Violet, the ex-wife of her step-father, George Rochefort. Thus she got to know her step-brothers and sisters quite by accident. After spending 6 months in San Diego Joan moved to Barstow CA where she lived from 1950 through August of 1953. Her oldest son, Norman Edward, was born at the Marine Base Hospital in Barstow. She next moved to 517 W. Jackson St in Fostoria OH where she lived until December of 1956. In 1956 she rented an apartment in Columbus OH at 58 W. Frambes (which is now part of Ohio State University) and then at 2467 East Avenue. In 1958 she moved from Columbus to 21?? SW 60th St. in Oklahoma City where her youngest son, George, was born at the Hillcrest Osteopathic Hospital (now the Hillcrest Health Center) at 2129 SW 59th St. She then purchased her own home at 6309 NW 21st Drive in Bethany OK (Oklahoma City) and in 1963 sold that home and purchased another at 925 S. Pickard in Norman OK. After her divorce in 1971 she moved to Arlington TX (Ft. Worth-Dallas area). In 1996 she moved to St. Louis MO to be closer to her oldest son, Norman Edward. She remained in St. Louis until her oldest son moved to California to take on a new job. In 2000 she moved back back to Arlington TX where her youngest son, George Gustaf, was now living.
Because she assisted her mother for so many years in the grocery store, Joan had many good friends in Milton Center. Amongst these were her classmates Glen Poling, Donna Rood and Thelma Nutter. Both Donna and Glen are now deceased. She attended one of the first class reunions at Milton but was unable to attend another--usually because they were held at times when she was living very long distances from Milton.
Over the years Joan worked as a secretary in Barstow CA, Columbus OH and Oklahoma City OK. In 1957 she worked at the Battelle memorial institute in Columbus OH which, at that time, was involved in secret cold-war espionage for the U.S. Government. At Battelle she was a private secretary to the only living grandson of the Romanov family which was murdered by the communists when they overthrew the Tsar in 1917-18. He did translation work and Joan did his transcriptions.
Joan was a universally pleasant person. She loved animals, especially cats. One of her favorite pastimes was to talk with relatives and friends about what they had done and where they had been. She truly enjoyed listening to accounts of their exploits. Throughout her life she did not like to write letters; she preferred to talk in person or on the phone.
On Wednesday, 13 April 2001 Joan had a massive stroke which left her mostly paralyzed. Her son, George Gustaf, found her on the couch at her Arlington home in a coma. She was moved to the hospital immediately and died there within a few days. Her body was cremated in Mansfield. A private memorial was held by the family.
Joan (Rochefort) Gibat is survived by the relatives listed immediately below. If you have any remembrances, about Joan or her family, which you would like to pass on to the family, they would be most welcome. Please email, phone or mail to any of the below:
Norman Edward Gibat
Hagdon Meadows Ranger Station
9003 Aspen Way
Groveland CA 95321
George Gustaf Gibat
Stephanie Spires (George's consort)
PO Box 120245
Arlington, TX 76012
Robert Rosenberger Rochefort
621 N. Ottokee
Wauseon OH 43567
Iola Rochefort Hofner
Whitehouse OH 43571
EmmaJean Rochefort Beckstein
Bowling Green OH 43402