It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Joan “Jo” Hakes Sciaini — sister, aunt and life partner — on Oct. 31, 2020.
Jo was born on July 14, 1942, in Sheridan, Montana, to Julia Jarrett Hakes and Harvey R. Hakes. Her earliest years were spent with her family in Sheridan and Alaska. When the family moved back to Montana in 1948, she lived in Twin Bridges and then with family members in Helena until her parents’ divorce. In 1951. she was joined in Helena by her mother, brother Bill and sister Betty.
Jo remained in Helena for the next 10 years, graduating from Helena High in 1960. It was in drama class that she found her love for acting and theater. In 1959, she won the title of Best Character Actress at the Interscholastic Little Theater Festival in Missoula. Her love for Old Hollywood remained a hallmark for the rest of her life, and she would host annual Oscar Night parties.
In fact, Jo loved throwing parties for almost any occasion, including her family’s and friends’ milestone birthdays. “Any excuse for a party, that was Joey,” her brother recalls. “Those turning 65 would be presented with a prune cake, M&Ms labeled Viagra, and ‘other noxious items.’ And when she wanted to secure an unusually large crowd, she picked on her poor mother, celebrating her birthday at least every five years.”
In 1962, Joan moved to Los Angeles, where she met Camillo “Millo” Sciaini and married him in 1966. Although they didn’t have children together, she grew close to his children and grandchildren. She became an expert in Italian cooking and hosted amazing meals for family and friends. Jo and Millo also shared a love of international travel, touring such countries as Egypt, China, South America and Europe.
She stayed in Los Angeles for several years after Millo’s passing in 2002, but eventually her love for Montana and family history led her to Billings, where she purchased a condo. She persuaded both her sister Betty, as well as sister Jean and brother-in-law Roy, to move to Billings and into the same complex. Family connections were extremely important to her, and raucous multi-generation pinochle games were a part of maintaining and reinforcing that connection.
It was at the condos where she found love again with Jim Soumas Sr., and came to love his children and grandchildren as well. Jo and Jim both had a deep appreciation for family and travel. Together, they hosted dinners and parties, and every year would take an extended adventure vacation.
Jo is predeceased by her parents, Julia and Harvey; husband Millo; brother Robert Hakes; and sister Jean Durham. She is survived by her sister, Betty Davis and nephew Doug Davis; brother Bill Hakes (Myr) and nephew Chris Hakes; brother-in-law Roy Durham; nieces Valerie Palmer (Ken), Cheri Schwin (Tom) and Betty Jo Harris (John); and numerous great-nieces and great-nephews, all of whom she loved. She also leaves behind her beloved Sciaini grandchildren (Suzy, Matthew, and Jennifer); and her Billings family, Jim Soumas Jr. (Tami); Deana Billings, and Denise Soumas Durham (Bob).
Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary is handling arrangements. There will be a mask-required, family-only graveside service held at Yellowstone Valley Memorial Park on Friday, Nov. 6, at 1 p.m. A celebration of Jo’s life will be announced at a later date.