The Way We Were: Joan Dismore

The Way We Were: Joan Dismore
Joan Dismore

Joan Dismore has lived a life abundant in love and experience.

“It’s a lot of life to cover since I’m the big 9-0,” she said. “When I look back, I never probably could have imagined all the things that I was able to do,” Dismore said. “I had a lot of different experiences.”

Dismore’s mother died when she was 4 years old, and she was raised by her Aunt Isabelle, whom she affectionately called “Diddy” because she couldn’t pronounce Izzy.

“I knew her more than I knew my mother,” she said. “She’s the mother that I remember.”

Despite losing her mother, she had a large family and people around who cared for her and her sister, Nancy.

“I always had love around and never felt lonely,” Dismore recalled.

Her grandfather was a train engineer, so they lived close to the train tracks on Hendricks Avenue. She and her sister grew up in a house right across from Landon High School where they would watch the band practice in the park.

The girls spent every summer with their Uncle Joe and Aunt Helen in Raiford. He was the assistant superintendent of the penitentiary, and they lived in the prison.

“My friends would jokingly ask, ‘Are you going to prison again?’” Dismore said. “You had to be careful, but you knew everyone was watching out for you.”

Her aunt kept her busy, teaching her a love for sewing. The couple had chickens and they used the cloth feed bags as the material for Dismore to learn to sew on. From flowers to squares, Dismore got to pick out the feed bags with the prettiest patterns. There was always something to do those days, she said. Dismore’s sewing talents continued as an adult, as she sewed suits and other outfits for her children.

“[Aunt Helen] always used to say idle hands were the devil’s work,” said Dismore.

One of her favorite things to do as a child growing up in Jacksonville was attending the San Marco Theatre. Watching a movie and grabbing a sweet snack was a real treat for her and her sister. It cost 9 cents back then to watch a movie.

“We were frugal, but we managed to get the sweets anyways,” she said.

Dismore, who, along with her husband, were previous members of the Florida Yacht Club, has always loved being around the water. She was a Girl Scout Mariner in high school at St. Joseph’s Catholic High School in Springfield and had to pass numerous tests to be a member. To her, it “seemed more interesting than the plain old scouts.” One amazing adventure she had as a mariner was a two-week trip on a 72-foot sailboat to Nassau, Bahamas.

“We were the crew,” she said. “We stood watch at night, and we did everything.”

While in high school, she also had the opportunity to attend Florida Girls State. She stayed on campus at Florida State University (FSU) and fell in love with the school. When she received a teaching scholarship, deciding to attend FSU was an easy choice for her. While there, she joined the Kappa Delta sorority to meet people and still keeps in touch with many of those sorority sisters.

“I loved every minute of it all the way through,” she said.

On summer breaks, Dismore worked at the shipyards in Jacksonville. She took all the coins out of the drink dispensers, worked in personnel and helped assign jobs. After graduation, she returned to Jacksonville, which she called “home.” She taught third and sixth grades for four years at area public schools, including San Jose Elementary.

“I loved seeing that little light bulb come on, when they would make a little statement that let you know they really understood it,” she said.

Dismore met her husband, George, through her sister, who worked as a nurse with George’s sister. George was a banker at First Union, previously First National Bank.

“We just did crazy things,” Dismore said of her relationship with George. “Instead of going to the movies, we took turns trying something different.”

When it got cold one Christmas, they collected cardboard boxes for the Jacksonville Zoo to cover up the cages.

“We went around to the back of the grocery store and picked up boxes and took them out to the zoo,” Dismore said. “That was one of our dates.”

Joan Dismore’s family: son David, daughter-in-law Kim, son Alan and husband George with Joan.
Joan Dismore’s family: son David, daughter-in-law Kim, son Alan and husband George with Joan.

The couple had three sons, Alan, Tom and David, whom they raised in a house on Rosewood Avenue. Dismore took time off to be a stay-at-home mom while the children were little before going to work as the librarian of Jacksonville Country Day School when they were older.

“I didn’t have to grade anything, so I could just have fun with them,” she said. “I just enjoyed sharing stories and reading to them.”

In the 90s, she and her husband built a house on the river on 3.5 acres of property George inherited from his great aunts. The 7-acre Mandarin property had been in the family since the 1800s and was split between he and his sister. The old house that was on the property had to be torn down and they did a lot of work to get the house built.

“My mom was out there whacking up weeds, and pulling up stuff, and getting rid of plants, and things like that so they’d have a space to build the house,” said David Dismore.

Once her children were grown, the couple began to travel. They went on several cruises and took trips to Germany and Italy – her favorite.

Tom passed a few years before his father, George, died in 2019, after 60 years of marriage.

“We had a good go,” Dismore said. 

Joan Dismore, front right, with her extended family.
Joan Dismore, front right, with her extended family.

In her spare time, Dismore volunteered for more than 15 years at Nemours Children’s Health reading books to the children and using puppets to help tell the stories. Currently, she is enjoying her time at Starling San Jose and her weekly dinners with her son David.

By Jennifer Jensen
Resident Community News

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