Jo Law Obituary (1925 – 2022) – Fort Worth, TX

Jo Ann Nelson Law
May 27, 1925 – January 9, 2022
Fort Worth, Texas – Jo Ann Nelson Law, a longtime Fort Worth community volunteer and small businesswoman, died Jan. 9 at Trinity Terrace in Fort Worth. She was 96 years old.
Jo Ann, originally from San Antonio, was a Grace Kelly lookalike who overcame a childhood battle with polio to live a vibrant life and raise a blended family of four in Fort Worth with her late husband of 45, Thos . Hart Law, a prominent lawyer and civic leader. She was an avid community volunteer who founded a small jewelry business – and wasn’t above selling the necklace off her neck – and sometimes appeared in the carpool lane in a bathing suit still wet from waterskiing .
Born in Falls City, Nebraska on May 27, 1925, to Florence Lyford Nelson and Jean Orion Nelson, she moved with her family several times during her childhood as her father worked as an oilfield geologist before settling in San Antonio.
Jo Ann contracted and beat polio when she was four years old. It took her a year to learn to walk again and she credited her father’s tenacity for her recovery – he was determined not to let her stop walking. The poverty she witnessed as a child during the Depression gave her empathy for the less fortunate throughout her life. She never forgot to share with classmates who repeatedly came to school without lunch or shoes. She credits this experience with making her a lifelong democrat.
She attended Woodlawn Elementary School in San Antonio, Horace Mann High School, and Jefferson High School. She was a spirited middle schooler, climbing the Pioneer Flour Mill with her lifelong friend Dotty Beckmann and rafting what became the San Antonio River Boardwalk while pulling snakes from the trees. His family could only afford to send him to camp in the Hill Country one summer, and it happened when they had a flood and the road to camp was cut off. Always an animal lover, Jo Ann spent the next few days rescuing fish and bringing them back to the river.
Jo Ann’s family went to Woodlawn Methodist Church. She also attended Laurel Heights Methodist Church during her senior year because that’s where the action was. Jo Ann, a Grace Kelly lookalike, had a busy social life at Jefferson High School and was a leader of the Lasso Girls, the walking exercise team. Nobody held steady and she always told her granddaughters that it was much more fun to “play in the field”. Indeed, Jo Ann had a date every night, sometimes two dates. She had a full dance card at a time when high schools regularly sponsored Friday night dances. World War II was underway and many of his friends and fathers of friends, including his own, went off to war. Some did not return. His life was shaped by the acts of solidarity and patriotism shown by his high school classmates as they participated in the war effort and the search for rare materials.
Jo Ann entered the University of Texas at Austin in 1943 and joined Pi Beta Phi. In April 1944, she left college to marry the handsome B-17 Air Force pilot, Captain Richard E. Evans. Their daughter Barbara “Bobbie” was born in San Antonio and their son Don was born when they moved to Pasadena after the end of World War II. She has worked in the modeling and film industry, modeling swimsuits (sometimes on water skis) and working in small roles alongside stars such as Lucille Ball, Clark Gable and Janet Leigh. She had had a crush on Mickie Rooney when she was a teenager, but as a young wife she actually worked with him.
During the Korean War, her husband was called up for active duty and they were stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Waterskiing became a big part of her life and she taught about 200 people how to ski behind their boat, including General Curtis LeMay. Years later, she still regularly waterskied with girlfriends on Lake Granbury and was often seen in the carpool line at All Saints in a wet bathing suit and with an Alfredo Mendoza ski in the back of her Cadillac. .
After spending 16 years as the wife of an Air Force officer and living in four states, Jo Ann settled in Fort Worth. She was vacationing in Aspen when she met her second husband, Thos. Hart Law, a lawyer, on a ski slope when he knocked her down. She always said that since he was a gentleman, he should invite her to dinner. They married in 1961 and the couple had two more children, Tom, Jr and Debra. Their household always had a few Chinchilla Persian cats, and if there were any strays, raccoons, or possums, they were also fed.
In 1981, she founded a small business, JNL Enterprises Inc., which sold fine jewelry and gifts. She and Tom had many formal occasions where she could wear her trinkets and she wasn’t above selling fancy jewelry straight off her neck. She showed her pieces in the parlor of the Law House overlooking Lake Luther and never advertised, keeping her clientele among friends and word-of-mouth marketing. The jewelry business was an outlet for her design talents and she loved to provide for her customers.
Jo Ann found opportunities for fellowship and service in the Jewel Charity Ball, PEO, Women’s Club, Fort Worth Garden Club, Lecture Foundation, Pi Beta Phi, First Presbyterian Church Women’s Circle, Rondele Dance Club , the Farando Dance Club, the Dinner Dance Club and Ridglea Dinner Club.
Jo Ann adored her friends. She’s been at a bridge club for over 40 years, hogged an indoor tennis court in River Crest on Saturday mornings for over 20 years with her permanent reservation for her doubles group, and loved nothing more than a neighbor coming for a coffee and a visit.
Jo Ann and Tom loved to travel and have visited 59 countries together. He was a prominent Fort Worth lawyer and civic leader at the state and local level, and she was always by his side in every endeavor he undertook, one of her favorites being the Vice President of the University of Texas Board of Trustees. She said being married to Tom gave her the most rewarding and interesting life she could imagine. They were always learning and engaging in opportunities to contribute to their community. If they were invited to a vernissage or to some party, they made an effort to be there because they liked being outdoors. After losing Tom in 2006, she found one last hurrah, a late-life partner in John DL Davis, who gave her solace and companionship in her later years – and looked great in a tuxedo.
Jo Ann would have tears in her eyes talking about Jesus. In fact, she couldn’t finish a sentence without her voice breaking. She referred to death as “gaining her wings” but she really didn’t want to talk about it. Yet on the last day of her life, she was ready, saying she wanted to “go home.” She would do anything for the family – she has shown time and time again that family is the most important thing to her. Everyone in the “Jo Ann Clan”, as it was called, thrived on her.
She is survived by her children, Barbara Evans Kinnear (John), Donald Nelson Evans (Machelle), Tom Law, Jr (Veronica) and Debra Law McKeown (Mick); his grandchildren, Martine Evans Loitz, Katherine Helena Kinnear, Monique Evans Isringhausen, Saxon Rowdy Evans, Nelson Grace McKeown and Sarah Law McKeown; her great-grandchildren, Violet Love Loitz and Colton River Loitz; his sister, Constance Nelson Wallace; numerous nieces and nephews; and her goddaughters, Stephanie Steves Burk and Marisa Tilley Hammond. In addition to her husbands and ex-husband, she was predeceased by her grandson, Hunter Richard Evans.
The family is planning a private service to remember Jo Ann, given the health and safety challenges of the pandemic.
In lieu of flowers, the family offers to make a donation to Les Thos. H. Law and Jo Ann Law Endowed Medical Scholarship at the University of Texas Dell Medical School or Tarrant County Humane Society.

Published by Star-Telegram on January 16, 2022.


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