Joann Kidwell was a woman of intense faith in God. From her birth she had to faced horrific obstacles, but her strength led her through the storms of life to become a woman of example to everyone she came in contact with. Joann was born with cerebral palsy, and was abandoned by her parents at a young age. Raised by her aunt she grew up with physical difficulties and deep rooted pain from the lack of love by those around her, but she rose from the ashes of despair, reaching out to her Heavenly Father who became her everything in life.
Joann later found love and acceptance from her husband, Donald, whom she met when they both were working at the League for the Handicapped in Baltimore, Maryland. But her family opposed their marriage, “They thought that since I was, according to them, a physically limited person that I could not deal with the daily duties of being a wife as well as the emotional ups and downs,” she wrote in her essay. But their love endured through the years, through the emotional struggles, physically limitations, and they were happily married for over 40 years.
Joann was forced to walk using crutches all of her life, and later in life had to use a wheelchair to get around. She had intense faith in the word of God that “by His stripes we are healed”. She attended church faithfully every week, and there was never a moment that Joann did not believe that today is my day for a miracle. Although that day never came for a miracle for her to walk, she understood that God had a plan, and never lost faith in God. God had given her a purpose to reflect His love through the example of life. Her love for God was deep, for He was her best-friend, her savior, and the Father that she never had. Her faith was contagious, and inspired Jonathan Roiz who she cared for as a child, and considered him the son that she never had to write a song entitled “By His Stripes” which documented the journey of a woman and her faith.
For over 63 years, Joann Kidwell couldn’t even read a newspaper – but learned to read in 2006, and began reading novels. Her reading, writing and math skills skyrocketed because of her dedication to fulfill her two goals in life to earn her GED and to write her autobiography. “Every once in a while I have to pinch myself,” Joann said in an article by the Dundalk Eagle. “‘Is this real?’” She never graduated high school. Her cerebral palsy forced her to attend a special needs school as a child. The school prioritized physical therapy over academics, Joann said. Teachers didn’t believe that she could learn scholastics. Society at large, including some family members, didn’t believe it either.
In her prize-winning essay, “My Experience,” Kidwell wrote, “People, especially women, need to be accepted by society, loved by their peers and honored as human beings in spite of their physical disabilities.” Joann once said her lack of education affected her self-esteem. “I’m a feisty person, though,” she said. “I’ll keep going as long as the doors are open – I’m going to go through them.”
Her dream was to use her autobiography to educate society about people with special needs. Joann received attendance and academics certificates in addition to her Student of the Year Literacy award. “It took me 63 years to find the Literacy Works program, where I am treated as a friend and as an equal,” Kidwell wrote. “Time has made me emotionally complete, as a human being and a woman.”
In her later years of life Joann decided to hire a private investigator to find her Mother who had abandoned her as a child. Just a couple of years ago, she successfully found her and was given the opportunity to write her Mother a letter sharing everything that she had held inside for over 60 years.
Although Joann was not a wealthy person, she gave whatever she could financially give to the Hope Movement, she believed in the vision and calling that God gave Jonathan Roiz, the child she once cared for who is now a man, and was compassionate about doing her part to make this world a better place.
On September 8, 2010, the earth lost Joann Kidwell, but the heaven gained a true Angel. Although Joann will be forever missed and remembered, her memory will forever live on. Her faith and love has touched us all in a way that has shaped our lives, and we rejoice in knowing that finally Joann has received her miracle. She is liberated from the chains of cerebral palsy, loosed from the wheelchair, healed from the past hurts of her childhood, and is dancing on the streets of Heaven.
Gone but Never Forgotten
- Jonathan Roiz