Joan Gordon PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 03 September 2013 09:53
Gordon-Joan.1-obitJOAN LOIS HONKALA GORDON, who breathed new life into the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce when she was hired in 1984 as its executive director, died Sept. 2 in Bridge Hospice at Heritage Corners, Bowling Green.
Mrs. Gordon, 78, died of liver cancer, her husband James said.
Joan Gordon's talent for organization went big time in 1983 when she accepted the assignment to chair the city's 150th anniversary (and an encore performance for the city's 175th in 2008). A native of Painesville, she was the Outstanding Female Citizen of the Year in 1975. In 1986, Wood County Commissioners asked her to organize a celebration of the 100th birthday of the Wood County Courthouse, an event in which meals were catered to the second and third floors of the structure.
Recognizing her affection for the city and her love and talent for organization, the Chamber of Commerce was able to lure Mrs. Gordon from her job as public information director at WBGU-TV, a position she held from 1972 to 1984. Before that, she was county editor of the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune, starting as part-time TV editor for the paper.
Among her first tasks as the new Chamber executive was to organize the 1985 Annual Meeting and Dinner Dance at the BGSU Union. Mrs. Gordon made sure that every city, county, state, and university official present at the dinner was recognized from the podium by the president of the Chamber. Later that year she supervised the move of the Chamber office from West Wooster Street to the ground floor of the Masonic Building on North Main Street.
A major challenge for her was keeping alive the Bowling Green Holiday Parade after Uhlman's Dept. Stores pulled its parade funding because of a downturn in the economy. Mrs. Gordon turned to the community for replacement support and reorganized the parade itself by creating starting bays on side streets instead of all the floats starting from the high school parking lot.
She also was involved in Fourth of July fireworks funding until she retired in 2000, after 15 years at the Chamber.
Formation of Leadership BG, a Chamber project, was one of her proudest organizational accomplishments. One of that organization's legacies is the founding of the Bowling Green Community Foundation with initial funding by Dorothy and Ashel Bryan. This philanthropic organization has distributed thousands of dollars to local groups over the years.
The Chamber's Christmas tree lighting ceremony with the mayor of Bowling Green throwing the switch stemmed from the collaboration of Mrs. Gordon and the Wood County District Public Library. She also organized the annual summer Chamber Golf Outing.
Some say Joan Gordon never met a board she didn't like. Or a group. Some call her the "Queen of Committees." A former mayor of Bowling Green, the late Wes Hoffman, called her Madam Chamber, for all the revitalization efforts she put into her work - or love for the city-- as the executive director of BG's Chamber of Commerce for 15 years. She got her fingers in more pies ... it must have been in her genes...
Her talent came early, accompanied by her interest in trying to organize the world around her, as well as her skills with the written word.
Mrs. Gordon, a native of Painesville, earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from BGSU. Although she played the piano and chose a music major as a freshman, she learned that struggling with music composition was not for her, and turned to journalism. She was managing editor of The BG News as a senior. At BGSU Honors Day ceremonies, she was announced as the Outstanding Journalism Graduate of 1957. She married James Gordon that summer, and they celebrated 56 years of marriage in August.
After living in Elyria and Columbus, the Gordons returned to Bowling Green, where Mrs. Gordon taught English and journalism (and advised the Scarlet Parrot student newspaper) at the senior high school from 1959-1961.
At the Sentinel-Tribune, Mrs. Gordon first worked part time as radio-TV editor, and then full time as county editor.
She enjoyed working with the late editor Paul W. Jones, who hired her, and the other staff members like Minniebelle Conley (society editor), Dean Roach (sports editor), and reporter Gene Welty, until 1972, when Dr. Duane Tucker hired her as public information director of WBGU-TV.
After retirement from the Chamber in 2000, Mrs. Gordon plunged into full-time volunteer work.
She served terms on the Wood County Hospital Board, and loved the challenge of raising money for her organizations. She served on the foundation boards of the Wood County District Public Library and the Wood County Hospital. Mrs. Gordon was president of the Bowling Green Woman's Club and later was state president of the Ohio Federation of Women's Clubs. She was president of the Bowling Green League of Women Voters.
A member of the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club, Mrs. Gordon served at its president and was its current secretary. Increasing club membership was one of her passions, and during her time with the club, its membership surged to more than 100.
Mrs. Gordon used her journalism background to produce newsletters for the Bowling Green and state women's clubs, Bowling Green Kiwanis Club, and League of Women Voters.
She had an eagle eye for spotting typographical and spelling errors in meeting minutes that she was asked to approve as a committee member, often to the exasperation of other committee members.
Mrs. Gordon had a passion for scholarships, badgering the members of her clubs and organizations to fund new scholarships or enhance current ones. With camera in hand, she attended the annual scholarship ceremony at Bowling Green Senior High School to photograph the recipients of awards from her clubs and their parents. She ran the photos in the newsletters she produced.
As chair of the Wood County Committee on Aging, and working with the Wood County Commissioners, Rep. Randy Gardner, and BGSU, Mrs. Gordon was a key player in arranging for $500,000 to fund construction of the WCCOA's new kitchen on East Gypsy Lane Road. Dedicated in 2006, the kitchen now prepares meals for consumption at seniors at home and at sites in Bowling Green, Rossford, Pemberville, Wayne and North Baltimore. She was on the board for more than 30 years.
Mrs. Gordon's hobbies were Bowling Green and Wood County. But she also enjoyed attending concerts on the BGSU campus, BGSU women's basketball, and playing bridge with one of the city's bridge-playing women's groups.
Joan's survivors, in addition to her husband, include son Kevin, of Bowling Green, assistant sports editor at the Sentinel-Tribune; daughter Melissa Gordon Johnson, of St. Clair Shores, Mich., an accountant with a private firm; grandchildren Nicholas, Myles, and Zachary; and brother Richard, of Painesville. A younger brother David preceded her in death.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 1 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church. Rev. Thomas Mellot will officiate. Burial is at Oak Grove Cemetery.
Friends may call on Thursday from 3 to 8 p.m. at Dunn Funeral Home located in Bowling Green's Historical District at 408 West Wooster St.
In lieu of flowers, donors may contribute to scholarship funds at those organizations of which Joan was a member, including Kiwanis Club, League of Women Voters, Women's Club of Bowling Green, Chamber of Commerce, BGSU Retirees Association, or the Gordon Scholarship Fund at the BGSU Foundation.
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Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 September 2013 17:24

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