Joanne Hess, Rehoboth activist

November 7, 2013

Joanne M. Hess, 82 of Rehoboth Beach, passed away Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, daughter of late John B. and Elizabeth (Sperry) Hess.

Recent health problems may have slowed her walk, but Joanne Hess was quick on her feet and was an active and ubiquitous presence in the Rehoboth Beach community.

Born in San Francisco - she was a fifth-generation Californian - Hess spent most of her professional life in Washington, D.C. working at National Geographic for 41 years, retiring in 2002 as director of audio/visual.

Originally hired for $2,800, she worked up the ladder at National Geographic to eventually be in charge of the travelogue lecture program. Her job at National Geographic allowed her the chance to travel and work with many of the prominent scientists and explorers of the 1970s, such as Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and the Leakey family.

After her retirement, Hess made the move to Rehoboth full-time and became a staunch advocate for the preservation of the city's unique character. She was appointed to the planning commission in 2005, serving until 2008 when health problems forced her to resign. She thoroughly enjoyed her time on the commission.

A former member of the planning commission, Hess was a fixture at city commissioners meetings and helped every Tuesday with the Rehoboth Beach Farmers Market. A kind, grandmotherly-type, Hess was also something of a trendsetter, having bought the first lot in Country Club Estates in 1967. She built her house there in 1970 where she resided with her miniature dachshund, Hobo Too.

Since its founding in 2007, Hess was active with the farmers market, helping coordinate volunteers and work the information tent.

Hess managed to stay active politically, attending city meetings and providing resources and support to candidates she supported. Every year before election time, Hess mixed political activism with her other love: dogs. Since 2005, Hess had commissioned specially made dog leashes with the name of the candidate she supported, as well as creating an ad, paid for by "Hobo Too and His Friends," showing different dogs wearing the leashes.

Hess said her political activism goes back to her college days when she always made a point of attending lectures.

Hobo Too was Hess's fifth dachshund, named of course for her adopted city of Rehoboth. The first Hobo lived to age 18.

Besides a love of dachshunds, Hess also inherited a chair from her grandfather, which was used on the set of the movie "Gone With The Wind" and which Hobo Too, just like her grandfather's dachshunds, had adopted as his personal chair.

Ms. Hess is survived by her brother, Jonathan Hess of Washington, D.C..; her niece Susan Y. Hess of Denver, Colo.; her great-nephew, Jonathan Vigil of Denver; and her sister-in-law, Chong Sun Hess of Port Orchard, Wash.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m., Tuesday, November 12, at All Saints' Episcopal Church, 18 Olive Ave., Rehoboth Beach, where friends may visit one hour prior to service. Graveside services will be held at 2 p.m., at the Epworth Methodist Cemetery, Henlopen Avenue, Rehoboth Beach.

Memorial contributions in Ms. Hess's name may be made to SPCA, 22918 DuPont Blvd., Georgetown, DE 19947.

Arrangements are being handled by Parsell Funeral Homes & Crematorium, Atkins-Lodge Chapel, 16961 Kings Highway, Lewes, DE 19958.



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