by Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (February 2019) – JoAnn Hosta and Jim Kijewski met on a blind date at a school dance at Illinois State University in Normal more than six decades ago. “In those days they had matchmakers,” said Jim. “Someone would get 10 guys together and then match with 10 girls.”
It was what happened after the dance that gave Jim a hint that JoAnn might be the one. “We went with these other couples after the dance, and they took us to a bar. She was 17, I was barely 20. Back then, women could legally drink at 18, but it was 21 for guys,” he explained. “I went into the bar and ordered a 7-up, and they asked for ID and then threw me out!”
“I was in the car by myself,” Jim continued, “and JoAnn came out to comfort me. It wasn’t one of those love at first sight things—those are overrated. But when I got kicked out of the bar, she came out there with me, and she didn’t have to do that.”
“He kept my school ID because he couldn’t remember my last name,” said JoAnn. Jim took the ID back to his dorm and told his roommate about this girl he had met. It turned out that Jim’s roommate and JoAnn had attended the same high school in the small town of Highland in downstate Illinois. Within in a couple weeks, Jim and JoAnn were going steady.
They dated throughout the rest of their college time. Both were education majors. While still attending ISU, Jim enlisted in the Army National Guard. Before he left for Fort Leonard Wood and six months of active duty, he offered a pin to JoAnn to wear while he was gone, but expressed that he didn’t expect her to commit to him for that long absence. JoAnn gladly accepted the pin and said she’d be waiting when he returned. She said she already knew before he left that she wanted to marry him, although she didn’t tell him that yet.
“I came from Calumet City. She was a farm girl. We were two different people from two different backgrounds,” said Jim. “But we were very much alike even though we were from different areas.”
JoAnn had graduated high school at 17 and then finished college in 3 years, graduating at age 20. She had one more year of school after Jim finished. After JoAnn graduated, they married in JoAnn’s home town of Alhambra, Illinois, on July 18. 1959.
“We were looking for teaching jobs, and she was a popular choice because she was in elementary education,” Jim explained. “I was high school social studies and we were a dime a dozen.”
They were able to secure jobs in the Chicago area and moved first to Harvey, living next to the school where JoAnn worked. She would walk over to her classroom while Jim would drive their only car to his job at the new TF South High School in Lansing. In 1962, they purchased a home in Lansing where they still live.
JoAnn taught kindergarten at a few private schools. (Many of the public schools didn’t yet offer kindergarten.) After a few years she settled at St. Florian Elementary School in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood where she had a 25-year career. Her first couple years she taught third grade, but then she returned to where her passion was as a kindergarten teacher. She retired in 2012.
Jim’s career included 39 years as a history teacher and swimming coach and 20 years as a football coach. His replacement in the social studies department upon retiring was Jacob Gourley, who is now the principal at TF South.
After Jim retired, he became a PE teacher at St. Florian, where JoAnn was teaching, and the two of them traveled to work together each day for the next 14 years.
As the years passed, their family grew. When they were expecting their first child, the couple still had just one car, and JoAnn had to get a message to Jim at the school so that he could take her to the hospital. First, a new secretary at the school thought it was a student calling and routed the call through the Dean’s office. The next person in the chain to take the call got distracted and forgot to pass on the message. Finally JoAnn called again and got through, and Jim took her to the hospital.
In those days, husbands sat in the waiting room, so Jim was prepared for a long wait with a magazine about the Centennial of the Civil War. He got one paragraph in, and a nurse came out and told him he had a new daughter. Three more kids followed—two more girls and a boy.
Jim and JoAnn occasionally spend time at her parents’ farmhouse, which JoAnn bought, but JoAnn says, “We’re not moving there any time soon,” JoAnn said. “I decided I like the city, and we have kids and grandkids here. We’re happy to be around to share time with our grandkids and great grandkids,” she said.
These days, the couple spends their time serving the community, traveling, exercising at the Eisenhower Center, attending local concerts, and playing cards with friends. They took a recent trip to Paris to celebrate their upcoming 60-year wedding anniversary.
JoAnn, who is still active with the Lansing Junior Women’s Club and Meals on Wheels and church, said, “When our first grandchild was born, people said, ‘Doesn’t that make you feel old?’ but I think you’re only as old as you feel,” she said. The couple now has eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Jim is active with the Golden K’s organization and at First United Methodist Church.
They each had different bits of advice for young couples. “Learn to give and take,” suggested JoAnn. “The lines of communication have to be open.”
“Always have time for just the two of you, like a date night or an evening at home” said Jim. “Find time to spend together alone—not with other people or the kids. I think it’s very important to always have time together.”