Cover photo for Joan A. Riess's Obituary
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Joan A. Riess

January 2, 1933 — September 27, 2023

Joan A. Riess

Riess, Joan Arlene, age 90, of Kettering passed away on Wednesday, September 27, 2023. She was born on January 2, 1933 in Shelby, Ohio to the late Charles and Dolores (Freese) Payne. Also preceding her in death is her loving husband of 61 years, George; her sister Sally (Payne) Kirchner, her daughter Mary Riess, and her granddaughter Rhiannon Riess. Joan is survived by her children, John (Kari) Riess, Michael (Rhonda) Riess, Sally Barney, Daniel Riess, Joseph (Heidi) Riess; 8 grandchildren; 2 great-grandchildren; and many friends.
Joan graduated from St. John’s College in Cleveland with a degree as a registered nurse. Although she never realized a career in nursing, for the rest of her life she made full use of the lessons learned about caring for others. Shortly after Joan and George married, Joan’s sister Sally died, leaving two children, Bill and Jodee. Joan loved and cared for these two children as if they were her own. A decade later, Joan and George once again opened their hearts to two wonderful children, Michael and Sally, who benefitted immensely from Joan’s wisdom and guidance.
Joan was a loyal daughter of the Catholic Church, with a special devotion to Mary, St Martin de Porres, and St Francis of Assisi. Her faith was the constant background to the role she increasingly adopted in her life: a messenger of God's love, especially to those in need. She displayed extraordinary compassion for the poor, elderly, and developmentally disabled, welcoming them into her home and her heart, and tending to their special needs. For over half a century, Joan, along with George, aided refugees fleeing places of persecution. They began by aiding Cuban families in the 1960s. They later assisted Vietnamese families after the fall of Saigon, helping them find housing, employment, educational opportunities, legal aid, and babysitting their children. Following the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, Joan played an instrumental role in assisting numerous refugee families from Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, and Cameroon relocate to America, helping them navigate the unfamiliar social landscape of their newly adopted home; and, especially, lending a sympathetic ear to their often harrowing stories of escape. She visited Rwanda herself to help facilitate their relocation. Joan and George adopted two girls from Rwanda, Jacky and Angelique, who lived with them for many years. As a result of her efforts, countless people knew her as “mom” and “grandma” during her long life.
Anyone who was blessed to know Joan was often also nourished by her love of cooking. She would remember someone’s favorite dish and prepare it when they visited, while carefully listening to their conversation about any and all matters important to them. Her selflessness had no bounds.
Friends and family may visit from 4-7pm on Friday, October 6 at Westbrock Funeral Home in Kettering. Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10am on Saturday, October 7 at Emmanuel Catholic Church in Dayton. She will then be laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Semacom Foundation of Dayton, Ohio or the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) Missions of Corpus Christi, Texas.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Joan A. Riess, please visit our flower store.

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Mass of Christian Burial

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Starts at 10:00 am (Eastern time)

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