TEMPLE – It was a rich and adventurous life-by her account-beginning with her famous road trip hitch-hiking from Cape Town to Cairo in the ’60s while serving in the Peace Corps in west Africa, to her migrant farm work on a Kibbutz in Israel’s Negev, to the years living in Manhattan teaching in the South Bronx and working in the world of private philanthropy funding all manner of political and cultural activism and finally to her “back to the land years” in Maine.
Despite undergraduate and graduate work in biology from Douglass College and Columbia University, when she came to Maine she earned her living as a journalist for newspapers and magazines, covering everything from the closure of GH Bass for the Morning Sentinel to the strike at International Paper Company for the Livermore Falls Advertiser to the school funding formula for the Maine Municipal Association. Over the years, she served on several boards including the High Peaks Alliance, School District 9, Fedco Seeds, a consumer-worker cooperative, and the Sandy River Recycling Association.
She had many “side bars” be it writing the history of Bagel and Dreydl, where Jewish feminists debated the Jewish patriarchs of Franklin County, or her Daily Bulldog column “The Opinionated Gardener” where she explored everything from the corporate takeover of the seed industry to the sexless life of the seed potato…And then there was the “Temple Times,” all the news the selectmen saw fit to print, that she edited for almost two decades. She could be found often in her basement darkroom, documenting her work and passions in black and white film.
Among her many passions were heritage apple trees, particularly the Deane apple tree which was said to have originated in Temple on the farm of Cyrus Dean, a Quaker whose farm was a way station for the Underground Railroad helping runaway slaves make their way to Canada. She grew many of the two part grafted trees from Fedco Trees and when it seemed time gave them to her neighbors.
Jo lived simply in Temple in a house she designed with her builder. It was supplied with gravity fed-water from a hillside spring, heat from the wood on her land, and garlic year-round from her gardens. Her wood fire sauna at the edge of her field was a gathering place for all who enjoyed the dry heat of 180 degrees followed by a romp in the snow while pondering the fate of the earth. She lived for 10 days every year downeast, where she explored many islands off the coast with her yellow sea kayak “Buttercup.”
Jo is survived by her sister-cousin Susan Bass of California and the “members” of Women Walking with whom she scaled many-a-mountain and kayaked many-a-lake.
She was predeceased by her sister Rochelle Kamsar of Toms River, N.J. Her parents Phil and Dorothy Schiffman Josephson of Rutherford, N.J. were first-generation Americans from eastern Europe. She declared her life rich in friendships.
Her ashes will be scattered over the waters off of South Addison.
She would like to be remembered with a donation to the Downeast Coastal Conservancy.
There will be a celebration of life in honor of Jo at the Temple Town Office (258 Temple Road) on October 1st at 3 p.m. outdoors (weather permitting), indoors if not. Memories may be shared in her Book of Memories at www.wilesrc.com. Cremation care has been provided by the Wiles Remembrance Center of Farmington.