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Jo Ann Wesley Sorrensen

On December 20, 2021, former longtime Claremont resident, Jo Ann Wesley Sorrensen died peacefully in Santa Barbara, California. Jo Ann was born in Pikeville, Kentucky in 1924 and spent her youth in the small towns of Grayson and Burgin, Kentucky.

With both parents significant in promoting education in these small towns, she considered her Wesley roots to be steeped in the values of education. She graduated in 1945 from Morehead State University with a degree in business and a minor in music. She then obtained a master’s degree in religious education from Union Seminary at Columbia University before starting a career in church work under Paul Hoon at The First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia. She talked often about her career in the church. The people she worked with inspired her deeply, and the relationships she developed there remained with her throughout her life.

Jo Ann moved to California in the early 1950s and worked in student services at California State University, Los Angeles. It is here that she met her husband Gerald F. Sorrensen. Together the couple moved to Claremont in 1964 and raised two daughters, Kristin and Cindy.

Jo Ann loved Claremont. She raised and inspired her children with, among other experiences, the Folk Music Center, Botanical Gardens, Memorial Park, and the Claremont College art museums, to name only a few.

While raising her children in Claremont, Jo Ann earned a second master’s degree from California State University, Los Angeles. When she was ready to return to work, she secured a grant to develop and staff a career center for Claremont High School. She became CHS’s first career guidance counselor and remained working there until her retirement in the late 1980s. At the career center, and throughout her long life, Jo Ann encouraged young people to envision possible careers and explore the training and college routes needed to attain those careers.

Jo Ann had many passions. She took up landscape painting and studied art with Joella Mahoney, a longtime Pomona Valley artist and resident. In later years she took up Chinese brush painting. She was also a founding member of a local Claremont recorder group and played music weekly with this group for over 20 years while in Claremont. She even had her own gown for performing at medieval fairs and recorder festivals. She joined the Shakespeare Club of Pomona Valley and enjoyed reading plays with friends. And lastly, she served as president and a long-term volunteer for the Community Friends of International Students, at the Claremont Colleges. Jo Ann made a real difference in the lives of students from all over the world who came to Claremont for their higher education.

Jo Ann remained in her beloved Claremont until 2008 when she moved to be closer to her eldest daughter’s family in Santa Barbara, California. Her recorders and many Shakespeare books moved with her and were put to good use even through her mid 90s.

Jo Ann was predeceased by her parents Flotilla Lyons Wesley and William McKinley Wesley; her husband Gerald F. Sorrensen (2001); her brother James Patrick Wesley (2008) and sister-in-law Dorothy Wesley (Shoemaker) (2021); and her brother Robert Perry Wesley (2020) and sister-in-law Norma Wesley (Barbour) (2021).

Jo Ann is survived by her daughter Kristin Ann Cothern (Sorrensen), son-in-law James Steven Cothern and grandson Raymond Tate Cothern; her daughter Cynthia Leigh Sorrensen and son-in-law Perry Lebron Carter; her nieces and nephews Susan Schafer (Wesley), Carolyn Booser (Wesley), and John Robert Wesley, and her grandnieces and nephews Katie Booser, Tricia Booser, and Wesley Schafer.

A memorial service will be held at the Claremont United Methodist Church on June 25 at 11a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to: Union Theological Seminary, 3041 Broadway, New York, NY 10027 or California Botanic Gardens, 1500 N. College Ave. Claremont, CA 91711, or Claremont Symphony Orchestra
P.O. Box 698, Claremont, CA 91711

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