Joanne Antoinette Ronchetto Phelps, 84, was born January 17, 1939, and passed away on May 14, 2023, from a several-year-long battle with cancer.
Known by her friends and family as Joey and Aunt Joey to her many nieces and nephews, she grew up on a family farm in Macon, Missouri. Joanne always felt that growing up on the farm enabled her to handle all the different situations that occurred in her life. She entered first grade at age five in a two-room country schoolhouse where she always said she walked uphill for two miles coming and going. Joanne completed elementary school at Immaculate Conception School in Macon and went on to graduate from Macon High School. She attended Fontbonne College in St. Louis, Missouri, and graduated from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, with a bachelor degree in education.
After graduation she moved to Chicago to work at Young and Rubicam, a large national advertising agency. She roomed with five women and together the six lived on Dearborn Street and later Lakeshore Drive. The six friends, of which two are now still living, have continued to stay in touch through the years. Joanne moved back to Missouri to become the office manager for the Kansas City law firm Morrison and Hecker. While working at the law firm she met her husband, William C. (Bill) Phelps, formerly of Nevada, MO, who later became the lieutenant governor of Missouri. She and Bill were married in 1972.
During their 47 years together politics played a pivotal role in their lives. Jointly, Joanne and Bill met many heads of state and diplomats, including Presidents’ Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush; Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; Israeli Prime Ministers’ Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres; and many other dignitaries.
In 1981, the couple made their way to Houston, Texas, where Bill began a successful career at American General. As she had in Missouri, Joanne became active in a number of organizations. She served on both the Missouri State and Harris County Easter Seal Boards; Texas Children’s Protective Services Board; Houston’s Heritage Society Board; and was President of Magic Circle Republican Women in Houston, a political club founded by Barbara Bush and others. Joanne made numerous friends during her countless hours of volunteer efforts to political organizations and campaigns including her special RIFFs group, who she had lunch with monthly.
Joanne was preceded in death by her parents, Emma and Matt Ronchetto, brothers Bob and John Ronchetto and nephew Dan Ronchetto. She is survived by her younger brother, Matt Ronchetto, who selflessly took care of her throughout her illness; sister-in-laws Sharon and Ann Ronchetto; nieces and nephews: Karen Schrand Ronchetto (Dan), Steve Ronchetto (Heather), Julie Ronchetto Swain (Scott), John Ronchetto (Kyra), Michael Ronchetto (Amy), Adrian Ronchetto and Stacy Ronchetto Schaper (Kyle), several of whom spent time in the summers with Joanne and Bill; and a number of great nieces, nephews and cousins.
A memorial service will be planned for a later date in Macon, Missouri.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the National Pachyderm Foundation at 2725 Bissonnet Street, Suite 240-215, Houston, Texas 77005 or online at www.pachyderms.org. Contributions also can be made to a charity of your choice.
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