Cover photo for Joann Elizabeth (Madison)  Gillespie's Obituary
Joann Elizabeth (Madison)  Gillespie Profile Photo
1936 Joann 2023

Joann Elizabeth (Madison) Gillespie

March 2, 1936 — April 27, 2023


Joann Elizabeth Gillespie, age 87, of Chatfield, MN. passed away at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota and was welcomed with open arms into Heaven on April 27, 2023.

Joann was born on March 2, 1936 to Fred and Lucy (Farmer) Madison in Marengo, Iowa. She graduated as Salutatorian from the class of 1954 in Goldfield, Iowa.

On August 15, 1954 she married Howard Clark Gillespie.  They started their married life as farmers near Renwick, Iowa. Their love of farming eventually led them to Preston, MN in 1958, where they bought their first farm. Joann loved farm life--she drove tractor, hauled grain in trucks, baled hay, fed calves, and always kept a large garden.

Farm life was busy but she also found time for other community activities, including church, 4H, homemakers, Community Ed classes, school board, PTA, among others.

After her husband passed away in 2004, she left the farm and moved to Chatfield, MN.  There she found a whole new network of people and activities to enjoy including book clubs, neighborhood gatherings, volunteering at the nursing home, delivering for Meals on Wheels, and frequently helped people needing transportation to appointments.

She always felt the greatest joy in her life was raising and supporting her five children. Later in life, she delighted in spending time with grandchildren and attending their school and 4H activities.

Joann was optimistic about life. No matter what obstacles she encountered, she faced it with a positive attitude and hope. Her smile and laugh blessed everyone she met. Laughter was her middle name.  She embraced and accepted all people with kindness and calmness.  Indeed, she was “Grandma Jo” to everyone!  She will be dearly missed by the many lives she touched.

She loved baking--in truth, we all loved her cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, and other baked goodies

She liked to live in the moment.  The beautiful world that God created constantly amazed and delighted her.

Travel formed a major part of her life, especially in the years after Howard passed away.  Together with her two sisters as well as others, she visited more than 20 countries.  Even in her last weeks she was happily planning yet another trip to Alaska.

Joann is survived by three siblings, Fred Madison, Eagle Grove, IA; Marian Freeman, Plattsburg, MO; and Donnarae Cranston, Grundy Center, IA; sister-in-law, Judi Squiers, Des Moines, IA; children, Jeff (Jacki) Gillespie, Fountain, MN; Paul (Pamela) Gillespie, Iowa City, IA; Sherry (Gary) Hareldson Rushford, MN ; Kent (Kelli) Gillespie, Chatfield, MN; Kirk (Gena Bilden) Gillespie, Mounds View, MN; grandchildren, Dawn (Nathan) Bernau; Ashley (John) Grant; Aaron (Amanda) Gillespie; Dane Gillespie; Caitlyn Gillespie; Bonnie Gillespie; Sarah Gillespie; Laura (Alice) Blackbriar; Matt (Becca Morales) Hareldson;  Jenna (Jordan) Redalen; Kayli (Aaron) Zezulka; Shaelyn Hareldson; Jacob Gillespie (Macy Pederson); Abbi Gillespie; Sam Gillespie; 13 great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.  She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Howard; her brother James Madison; her sisters Arlene Danskin, Margaret Risdon, and Berniece Mohr.

Funeral service for Joann will be 11 a.m. on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, at Chatfield United Methodist Church, with Pastor Deanna Woodward officiating.  Visitation will be 5 - 7 p.m. on Monday May 1, 2023, at the church and one hour before the service on Tuesday.

Riley Funeral Home & Cremation Service is assisting the Gillespie family with arrangements.  Online condolences are welcome at

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials be given to the Chatfield Public Library or Fountain United Methodist Church.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Monday, May 1, 2023

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Eastern time)

Chatfield United Methodist Church

124 Winona Street Southeast, Chatfield, MN 55923

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Chatfield United Methodist Church

124 Winona Street Southeast, Chatfield, MN 55923

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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