This obituary originally appeared on O’Neill Hayes Funeral Home.

Joanne “JoJo” Nelson left us on November 21, 2020 peacefully at home in Newport with her daughter Meg and husband Dale by her side. She was the daughter of the late Harold and Marguerite Forbes of Beverly Farms, MA and brother Jeffrey Forbes of Newton, MA. After graduating from Endicott College, Joanne worked at the Boston Children’s Hospital as a Medical Secretary and later started her own secretarial business in Newport, RI. Joanne and Dale fell in love with Newport, making 15 Cross Street on The Point their first home.

Joanne was a long-time member, player and supporter of the Newport International Tennis Hall of Fame. She was a tennis enthusiast, some would argue “addict”, a true sports fanatic. If you missed the highlights – no matter the sport – JoJo was your first call. Tennis week was her favorite. It was not to be missed, messed-with or interrupted. Joanne had a spit-fire, cleverly-witted, matter-of-fact rapport. Her sense of humor was dry, cynical, and sometimes a little raw for some audiences, but for so many it brought smiles in good times, and comic relief in bad. After already having fought off both breast and skin cancers and having been strongly advised by her doctors that she come in after another positive test, she casually replied, “I’ll have to reschedule, it’s tennis week.” Her stubbornness, strong and stoic nature is what we and all who were lucky enough to know her will miss the most. 

Joanne loved many things: the ocean, sailing, books, friends, and family, but one thing that defined Joanne more than others was her love for animals. Growing up, she had cats, dogs and horses. She had a soft-spot for anything with four legs and fur.  Joanne couldn’t help herself and soon became known as the “neighborhood cat woman” welcoming inside and feeding every stray cat in Newport.

Holidays spent with family and friends were also a cherished time of year for Joanne. She loved driving around the neighborhoods to see the Christmas lights and decorations while listening to classic Christmas songs. Joanne wasn’t the only one who looked forward to the Christmas season. She was a voracious reader and had an unmatchable, tongue-and-cheek writing style.  She spent the better part of the pre-holiday weeks writing well-wishes, notes and letters to friends and family.  Relatives and closest friends eagerly awaited the annual, not-so-traditional, “Telling-It-Like-It-Was-Christmas-Letter”- a slapstick, no-nonsense, point-blank, chronicle. 

Her sense of humor and laughter will not be forgotten. We will remember her kind-heart, gentle spirit and optimism.  She will be sorely missed.  If she were still with us, she’d tell us to smile and celebrate her life – so, that, we shall. 
In addition to her husband Dale and daughter Meg, Joanne leaves behind her sister Liz Carlow and her husband Arthur of Beverly, MA and her nephews and nieces Jason, Peter, Kate and Sarah. She also leaves behind our beloved dog, Stout. 

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to The Potter League for Animals, 87 Oliphant Lane, Middletown, RI 02842 or by visiting

The family would appreciate notes of remembrances, stories, and photos be sent to Meg Nelson, so that they can be read and shared as a tribute. 

Given the current COVID-19 limitations, memorial and celebration of life will be scheduled when circumstances allow.

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