Jo-Ann Dolan’s love for reading continues as she celebrates 85th birthday

If you know Jo-Ann Dolan, some things are so very obvious it’s impossible to forget. We know, without even having to ask, how much she misses her beloved late husband, Charlie. They were so much in love, going back to their days at St. Cecilia Parish.

We know she absolutely loves the gift of gab — in fact, when you see her in person, it’s all but guaranteed she’ll tell you a story or more about days gone by in Kearny, her family, folks who used to live in town and so much else.

And, she has an insatiable love for reading.

We didn’t know this until Kearny’s Jonathan Kelley informed us, but she’s been a part of a book-discussion club that gets together once monthly at the home of one of the members. The person who hosts also cooks.

And we’re told that’s a very popular part of club membership, especially when Jo-Ann does the cooking.

Now, that same woman, who has spent her life being of service to the Kearny community, recently turned 85. And when Kelley said he wanted to honor his friend, his suggestion was a no-brainer.

Yours truly loves getting to spend time with her. Occasionally, she pops by The Obsever’s office on Seeley Avenue and when she does, joy immediately overtakes me. Sometimes, it’s brief. Often, it’s not brief at all. We’ve talked about everything from Charlie, to Jim Hague, to books (especially ones she wants me to read, knowing I likely won’t) to the-late former Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, Vincent Albert “Buddy” Cianci.

But we also asked all members of the club to offer words about Jo-Ann. Everyone responded.

And, well, again no surprise here, everyone loves Jo-Ann.

“Asking me to pick one statement or quote about her is just as hard and stressful as picking out the next book,” Kristina Digravina says. “Kind, considerate, understanding, patient, loving and authentic are some of the things that come to mind when asked to list the qualities of a good person. Jo-Ann is a good person.”

Next, Ashleigh Ford chimed in.

“Mrs. Dolan is the heart and soul of our book club,” Ford says. “She always kicks it off with an in-depth summary of the book that we read that month. She brings a unique viewpoint to each discussion that gets the conversation going. Our book club is the highlight of my month.”

Next, it’s the aforementioned Kelley’s wife, Elizabeth.

“Jo-Ann is a true inspiration to me; she is the kind of person that everyone should aspire to be,” Elizabeth Kelley says. “She’s kind and considerate, smart and funny, an active and giving member of her community. Her mind is as sharp as ever and her heart is made of gold. She would give you the shirt off her back and the (very fashionable) hat off her head to boot. To know Jo-Ann is to love her … and I do … a lot.”

Next, we return to Jonathan Kelley.

“I only met Jo-Ann several years ago through my wife, and in that time, I have regarded this book club as a type of family and Jo-Ann sits as its matriarch,” Jonathan Kelley says. “She provides warmth, friendship, erudite conversation, and my discussions with her give me something to look forward to once a month other than a new book and a drink.”

And then there’s Jane Amadeo.

“Mrs. Dolan is not only a true intellect, but she is a wonderful friend,” Amadeo says. “She always brings a unique perspective to each of our books, finding the good in every story. She even used the recipes from one book to make desserts, which truly made the book come to life and elevated the experience. I couldn’t imagine having this book club, or living life, without her.”

Next, it’s Colleen Rusek’s turn.

“The world would be a better place if everyone had a Jo-Ann in their life,” Rusek says. “She is always there to talk and listen and on the days you might not feel like talking, she somehow knows and sends you a card in the mail. Through her simple, thoughtful acts, Jo-Ann makes you feel like you matter.”

Lastly from the club, it’s Amalia Digravina.

“When I first started book club, I didn’t know how it would work out,” Digravina says. “Now it has become the highlight of our month with wonderful company, food, conversation and laughs. Jo-Ann will always add a little touch of something special relating to the book. Our group is very unique and offers different age and background perspectives. We are blessed with her sage advice and willingness to help others. That Jo-Ann Dolan is one in a million.”

We couldn’t possibly agree more.

One in a million, she is, indeed. Happy 85th birthday, Jo-Ann Dolan. Happy reading. And may there be many, many more birthdays to come.

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.