Jo was born in Longview, Washington, on April 27, 1933, the eldest of four children born to Thelma Haugen Reese and Stephen Hugh “Curley” Reese. Her siblings, who have all passed before her, were Patricia Richardson, Steven Reece and John Reece. Her father, Curley, was a creative sign maker.
She attended schools in Washington until her sophomore year of high school, when her family moved to Billings; she then attended Billings Senior with the class of ’51. It was there she met Garland Eugene Wattles. He married his girl, Jo, in 1950. Together they raised four boys: Larry Wattles (Gina) of Sebastian, Florida, children Josh and Casey (deceased); Gary Wattles (Denise) of Billings, children Jeremy and Kristine; Terry Wattles (Jan) of Billings, children Brent, Brandi, Rebecca, and Sarah; Barry Wattles (Kathy) of Billings, children Tyler, Jordan, Elizabeth, Samantha.
Jo has four sons, 14 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren!
Garland, with Jo as his helpmate, worked in Billings for the Northern Pacific railroad and, as a perk, Jo would take the boys to Washington on the train from Billings for summer visits with her family. Garland was a mechanic and, in 1977, Jo and Garland began their Snowbird treks to Yuma, Arizona. They lived in Kelso, Washington, in the off-season. Garland was a valuable asset to the motor-coach owners. They built a network of friends from Montana to Washington to Yuma, Arizona!
Garland passed away in 1992 of cancer and Jo continued her snowbird treks, and she met a wonderful man, Toi Niemi of Klamath, Washington. They married in 1995. They spent the next 11 years together. Toi brought lots of music and dancing in her life, and they especially loved gathering with the Finnish brotherhood in Kelso, Washington.
Jo delighted in life. She loved to dance and laugh, especially at herself. She loved people. Her enjoyment of family and friends was evident in any gathering. She gave of her time, her attention and her laughter.
Toi passed away in 2005. In 2012, Jo chose to return to her family in Billings, and she had two requirements, 1) she did not want to cook, 2) she wanted to be around lots of people! We helped her settle into Morning Star, then later Edgewood Vista. We want to thank the staff at both places for loving Jo and caring for her as she slowly made the Alzheimer’s journey. Also thank you to the hospice staff who cared for her this past six months.
Jo passed away on Friday, April 17, 2020, at Edgewood Vista.
The family will hold a memorial service later this year in Billings.