Jo-Anne (Jo) Catherine Lazarus was born in Windsor, Ontario, in 1949, the third of four children of Joseph Lazarus and Bernadette (nee Grier). Jo grew up in Windsor, and graduated from F.J. Brennan High School. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and Physical Education and a Master’s degree in Health Sciences, both from the University of Windsor. In 1986, she earned her PhD in Kinesiology from the University of Michigan, and she was a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 23 years.
Jo-Anne was a devoted teacher and avid researcher in the field of motor development and motor control and movement. Her research included work with children who had developmental disorders and adults with traumatic brain injury as well as studies on those with Parkinson’s disease. Jo became particularly interested in and excited by her research exploring the effects of acupuncture on the brain. She also gave community talks on Parkinson’s and was committed to helping others who had the disease.
Diagnosed with Parkinson’s herself, at the age of 48, Jo possessed a strong inner core that enabled her to move through life with tremendous courage and grace. She stayed active and involved, joining a book group and taking classes. At 50, she discovered a love of drawing, particularly with chalk pastels, that lasted until the end of her life. Jo was generous, curious and attentive. She taught those who loved her much about kindness and presence of being.
Jo was also a terrific athlete. She played five sports in high school, and focused on basketball at the University of Windsor, where she was inducted into the college’s Hall of Fame. She also played for Team Ontario in the Canada Games. After her diagnosis, Jo took up Taekwondo and earned a first-degree black belt. She continued to golf for as long as she could. She was always interested in the effects of exercise on the brain, and was an advocate for physical and mental activities.
Jo passed away peacefully on October 7, surrounded by loved ones. She was predeceased by her parents, Joseph and Bernadette, and by her brother Robert Lazarus, of Windsor, Ontario. She will be deeply missed by her sister, Linda Duke, of Toronto, and her brother William Lazarus, of Brisbane, Australia; her sister-in-law, Linda Lazarus (wife of deceased brother Robert); her long-time companion, Marilyn Annucci; her closest friends, Chris Boyd (former partner) and Donna Dallos; numerous friends, past and present; many nieces, nephews, cousins, and aunts; and her family of caregivers—“Team Jo”—who lovingly looked after and befriended her, and to whom Jo was enormously grateful.
Jo’s remains will be cremated by Cress Funeral Home, and a Zoom Memorial Service is planned for friends and family. Memorials may be directed to the Parkinson’s Foundation or Play Like a Girl.