Jo Anne French (nee Saveland) was born September 5, 1943, in Richmond, VA, to Virginia and Malcolm Saveland, while her father was in the army stationed at Fort Lee. The family eventually moved back to the Cleveland area where Jo Anne, along with her brother John, grew up on Glencairn Road in Shaker Heights, OH. She attended all the Shaker public schools; Fernway, Byron and Shaker High School. As a young girl, she was a Brownie in the Girl Scouts with her mother serving as Brownie leader. As a child, she especially loved visiting her grandparents in Findlay, OH, each summer. She was the only girl amongst all the cousins and was the favorite of her grandmother Swartz. She would spend weeks with her grandparents and made many friends there in Findlay. Visits to the Hancock County Fair, swimming at Riverside Park and going to the Findlay Country Club were favorites. She also loved the vacations she would take to Lake Leelanau, Michigan with her family and her cousins.
Jo Anne had a lifelong love for books and reading which began in her childhood. As a child, she especially enjoyed the Nancy Drew series. She was a voracious reader and English was her favorite and best subject. Along with her appetite for reading, her penmanship was beautiful. People would often remark at her beautiful handwriting, even until the end.
After graduating from Shaker Heights High School, Jo Anne attended Muskingum College for a couple of years. Never really feeling at home at Muskingum and not particularly enjoying her studies, she would withdraw from college and return home where she began working. She had a few jobs working as a waitress at a delicatessen in Shaker and then later a hostess at the Silver Grill in the terminal tower in downtown Cleveland.
It was during this period of 1964-1965 (Beatlemania) that she was working at Halle’s Department Store where she would meet her future husband, a newly arrived Englishman from Nuneaton, England, David French. The two dated for a time and were married at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in the summer of 1966. Shortly after the wedding, David was drafted into Vietnam and the couple were sent to Fort Ord in California. After his tour, the couple lived in Berkley where David went to University of California - Berkley to become a CPA. It was during their time in California that Jo Anne gave birth to her daughter, Suzanne in 1969, and then Daniel in 1971.
After finishing school in California and landing a job in New York, Jo Anne and David moved their young family to Brooklyn, NY. While there, Jo Anne appeared on a couple of game shows: Sale of the Century and Jeopardy. She won some fun prizes such as a piano and a set of encyclopedias that the kids would later use frequently for homework. Soon after in 1974, their third child, Robert, was born.
With a growing family, and an offer for David to work at Price-Waterhouse in Cleveland, Jo Anne and David moved back to Ohio and settled in Shaker Heights. Jo Anne decided to finish her college degree and in June of 1982 she graduated with honors from Cleveland State University.
After her graduation from CSU, Jo Anne reentered the workforce. She worked for a time as a secretary and then as a paralegal. It was while working as a paralegal that Jo Anne discovered her affinity for law and began to consider becoming an attorney. She applied to Cleveland Marshall School of Law and was accepted. Jo Anne, now divorced, managed to put herself through law school while raising three kids and working multiple jobs. During this time, she worked as a waitress and a department store clerk while attending law school in the evenings. There was also a period there that she delivered newspapers in the wee hours of the morning to make extra money. Jo Anne worked tirelessly to provide for her family and finish law school.
In May 1988, Jo Anne graduated Cleveland Marshall College of Law. She then began the rigorous and intensive studying necessary to pass the bar exam. She passed the Ohio bar exam on her first try and would go on to take the bar exam for Pennsylvania and Florida, also passing both state’s exams on her first attempt. Jo Anne opened her own practice, renting an office space in the Standard Building in downtown Cleveland. She practiced criminal defense, divorce law and worked for years as counsel in the Guardian ad Litem program representing juveniles and families. Jo Anne would spend most of her career in private practice until retiring in 2014.
Jo Anne was always interested in fitness and loved cycling and playing tennis. She participated in many sponsored bike rides around Ohio, sometimes with her children, such as TASSLE (Tour Around the South Shore of Lake Erie) which she rode each summer. In her retirement, she threw herself completely into tennis and played in tournaments all around northeast Ohio and even Arizona.
Retirement also provided Jo Anne more time to spend with the youngest of her grandchildren, Lila and Harrison. There were many times that Lila used Jo Anne as a “model” to practice her makeup skills on. Although Jo Anne ended up looking like a character from a Tim Burton movie, she loved every minute of it. Jo Anne also had a passion for animals and had many cats and Shih-Tzu dogs throughout her adult life. She was also a big supporter of Ideastream Public Media and the Nature Conservancy.
It is unbelievable that a woman who was so vibrant and active has left us so soon. We will treasure the memories of trips to Mexico & Jamaica, going to Blossom orchestra concerts, a Grateful Dead concert (where she got lost), bike rides, playing tennis, riding with her on her motorcycle, celebrating holidays and birthdays and just hanging out. She will be deeply missed.
Jo Anne French, age 78 of Akron, OH. Beloved mother of Suzanne Havranek (Rob) of Hudson, OH, Daniel French of Cleveland Hts., OH and Robert French of Columbia, SC.; Grandmother to Robert Havranek and Summer, Lila and Harrison French; Great-grandmother to Jace Carper; dear sister of John (Linda) Saveland of California. Preceded in death by her parents, Malcolm and Virginia Saveland and granddaughter Emily P. Havranek.
In lieu of flowers, those who wish may make contributions in her memory to Ideastream Public Media at https://www.ideastream.org
Private Family Service.
FRIENDS MAY CALL AT BROWN-FORWARD, 17022 CHAGRIN BLVD., SHAKER HTS., OH 44120 ON FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29 FROM 5-8 PM.