Joan Eggen

Honored by:Her Family and Friends
Brick location:PAVER:3  map

In the severe economic climate of the depression, Joan (Jody) Underwood was born on August 28, 1931, in Liberty, Nebraska, to Dan Underwood and Dolly Ackerman. Dan had to quit high school to work and Dolly stayed home to help take care of the ten other children in her parents' family—but they were successful and even able to help send some of their siblings through high school. So, Jody's parents were good, hard working, poor people. They soon recognized that Jody was a precocious youngster. She was a very well-mannered tomboy.

In the evenings, Dan, his dad, and brothers sat around the pot-bellied stove and played the fiddle. Soon, Jody was playing the violin and by age 13 she was invited to play with the Lincoln Symphony. The lack of transportation, and probably the lack of knowledge of the symphony, kept her from accepting.

In high school, Jody was: salutatorian of her class, band head-majorette, state president of Future Homemakers of America, in many music and scholastic contests, student council representative, in the school operetta, first chair clarinet, and selected for Girls' State.

She hadn't considered going to college—but, fortunately, Doane College came after her with a scholarship. She worked part-time at the "Five & Dime", at the grain mill, and as a singer for a dance band and graduated from Doane in 3 years without a debt.

Jody was busier in college than in high school, if that is possible. She lived at home and walked back and forth each day. She was again in choir, head majorette, and first chair clarinet. She was president of her sorority, Doane College Night Relays Queen, Homecoming Queen, and Doane's representative to Drake Relays Queen. She sang in a triple trio that toured the Midwestern states, that publicized Doane. She was successfully involved in debate. She and her partner won the National Debate Tournament her junior/senior year.

Her husband, Gib Eggen, first saw her in college debate her freshman year (1949). They told each other they loved each other while standing in a hallway kissing at some debate tournament in Kansas (1950). So, debate was an important part of their lives. Jody was also in theater, where Gib saw her in a play in which she was forced to ad lib each night, as one of her co-actors would change the script each night while they were on stage—she was terrific. When Gib and Jody decided to get married after her sophomore year, Jody finished her last two years in one.

Through all of these accomplishments, Jody has always remained very modest. When Jody and Gib were first married and Jody played softball, she wouldn't let Gib come to the games. She placed him on a pedestal in the eyes of their friends, and the children. She was a great support in their married life and contributed greatly to Gib's success in life and at Northwestern Bell Telephone Pioneer Fund Drive for the Restoration of the Statue of Liberty. Jody's "You Light up my Life" theme and her one-act play, which she presented to Pioneer Groups all over the United States, helped to raise $200,000 for the restoration effort.

Jody's four children have been the light of her life. When she had four kids under six years of age, Jody cooked, cleaned (the home was always spotless—she used to wash the walls each night because her two oldest has asthma/allergies and she thought it would help alleviate some of their suffering), taught school, played and prayed with the children, and never, ever complained. What a role model! Now, her seven grandchildren are the light of her life.

She started working as a secretary in the Iowa Legislature when the oldest kids were in high school and was always in demand there, as she could control the flow of work. She would have been an excellent representative, doctor, teacher, interior decorator, writer, actor, salesperson, manager, executive—you name it. In fact, in her life, she has really done all of these things.

One vacation when Gib and Jody were leaving the Omaha National Memorial Cemetery in France, Jody was in the passenger seat, writing her impressions. It was raining hard and Gib was watching the road, not realizing she was writing. He found the following passage months later in their vacation papers—she had said nothing about it. We write it here, as an example of her depth of feeling and her ability to do yet one more thing—write, as she lived, with a passion for life:

God has just begun to turn the leaves from deep green to gold and red, showing his fatherly love and bringing warmth over the bodies of his children lying in Omaha Beach Memorial Cemetery. We walked the paths through the white crosses and Stars of David, which forced me to remember not just their sacrifice, but their courage. My body was not strong enough to stop the tears from washing my eyes for an even larger, more painful view. The memorial itself, a beautiful symbol and acknowledgment of man's atrocities, contains the story of the siege and besieged covering both its walls. Below, enclosing gardens of roses, a white solid unending fence bears the same names as burden the white crosses. As we walked toward a provided viewing place, above the beach, I could not dispel my feelings of disturbing cowardice. I could not believe our men ran onto that beach, looking up at the fortressed hills and cliffs and still they ran on—losing 70% of their companions as they ran. Their courage was, and is still, immeasurable, large than life itself. Our personal debt is immeasurable. We do not dare, now, to be weak. Our freedom has demanded too great a price—we owe all who have paid the price too much. If the cost of defending ourselves to deter others from once again demanding this ultimate price, then it is still but little. Cars, clothes, high standard of living, even abundant food itself, are great luxuries when the ultimate price has already been paid by our sons and daughters to ensure our liberty and deter those who would take it away. If we do not provide our country with equal strength, no matter the cost to our pleasure, and yes, even our necessities, we commit the great sin of again offering our sons and daughters in sacrifice to war, and at the very least, we forget, even mock, these children of God laid to rest on Omaha Beach. I pray he has taken them home.

The following paragraphs are brief thoughts by her children, sister, other family members, and friends.

I wish I were a child again reliving the warm memories of those days. All of those days were made possible by a mother who was, and is, the most caring, loving, giving, thoughtful, joyful, creative, selfless human being I have ever known. I always felt that she lived for "me", although now I know that she makes all around her feel the same way. There is no better mother in this world. There is no better human being in this world. I love her dearly and I always will.

It's been six years since my last entry which has gone by way too fast. Mom is now approaching 88 and, other than getting physically older, is still the most caring, giving person I know. Still never worried about herself and always thinking of her children and grandchildren. She lost her wonderful husband a couple of years ago and now has a new social living environment which she seems to be adapting to well. She has a cute little dog named Opie and has, of course, spoiled him to extreme. We still go to movies, dinner, and events and she is such a delight to be with. She is one of the most positive thinking people you could ever encounter. We all still love her dearly and hope to continue to experience this amazing woman for many years to come.

Son, Todd

In 1962 our beloved mother, Dolly, died suddenly. This tragic event left me, then an eleven-year-old child, without a mother. For the past 33 years, my sister Jody has helped me fill this terrible void. With love, compassion, and wisdom, Jody has helped me grow from childhood to adulthood. At each stage in my life, she has been a source of strength and of hope. Jody has been and shall always be my dear sister, parent, and friend.

Sister, Dawn

A typical view of my mother's patient, caring, loving nature is the picture my father came home to one night long ago: my mother rocking her two oldest children (ages 3 and 4), both sick with asthma, while showing an extremely pregnant tummy in between the two. It's just so typical of her to do this kind of a thing without any complaint or feeling of sacrifice or tiredness on her part. Another story: I can remember when I was sick in 3rd or 4th grade with pneumonia—of course, nights were always the worst. She would come lay with me in my bed and put her feet against the foot board to rock the mattress. This always made me feel better and I would fall asleep. Later, I'd wake up having trouble breathing and she'd still be with me—she'd start the whole thing over again, until I dropped off. She is always there, for anyone who needs her . . . her husband, her children, her relatives, her friends . . . day or night, no matter where we are or how tough the problem or how old we get. She and my father have truly been the most exceptional people I have met in this world—there are none more giving, caring, honest, hard working, talented, loving, and wonderful than they. I know of no one who has met them that does not love them. I love them more than life itself.

Daughter, Barbara

Whenever I think of Mom, I smile. She is always a source of encouragement and strength and hope. She leads by example with love, honor, wisdom, compassion and integrity. I and my wife Lamphoon feel very fortunate that she is my mother, and is now a role model extraordinaire for our daughters Alyssa and Chalalai. Mom has always been and will always be a blessing to all in her life. Thank you, Mom. I love you.

Son, Gib, Jr.

Being the grandson of Jody has truly been a blessing. Her positive outlook on life, regardless of the circumstances, has always served as a source of inspiration. Further, she is the sweetest person on this planet. Thank you for making my childhood so memorable. I love you, Grandma Jody!

Grandson, Garrett

There are so many great memories appearing in my mind right now as I’m trying to figure out how to portray them in this letter. Grandma Jody is truly a special and amazing woman, who’s touched so many hearts and continues to influence so many. Immediately when I think of grandma, it’s her values and what she stands for which influences me every day. She’s a wonderful God serving woman with integrity, honesty, love, strength, courage, and selflessness, JUST to name a FEW. She’s always there for anyone and everyone, putting everyone before herself just because of the pure kindness in her heart.

While growing up, grandma always made sure that my sister and I had fun and always made sure there were smiles on our faces. We always woke up to “zip-a-dee-doo-dah” and ended the day with the children’s Christian prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep” while throughout the day we were always entertained with card games, crayfish fishing, and other family fun. She really brought the family together. I remember that she would only speak positivity into us, and make sure we finish every challenge and work through any struggle with the right attitude to know that anything can be done if you set your mind to it. We truly have a great example to follow. She makes it very difficult for anyone to not like or be comfortable with her because she offers such a welcoming aura. Every moment with her was and is always filled with joy and laughter. I love you so much grandma! You’re so special!

Granddaughter, Alyssa

Gramma Jody has always been the person I look up to and wish to be. Whenever we went over to her house as kids, it always felt like it had only been a couple of hours by the time we left, but in reality it had been all day; that’s how much fun we’d have at her house. A particularly fond memory I have of her is racing her down the street while I was in roller skates. At that age, I thought it was funny that she was slower than me considering she was older.

Her endless positivity and encouragement have always been a guiding beacon in dark times. There is one saying she has that recently has stuck in my mind: “Everything turns out in the end.” That statement alone has helped me through difficult times: realizing there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel – even if you can’t currently see it or it’s not what you’re expecting. Even that simple statement has meant so much to me, and I can’t honestly say it would have meant so much or stuck with me if it hadn’t come from her. She is the most joyous and kindhearted person I know, no matter the situation. I am thankful she will always be a part of me.

Granddaughter, Aubyn

Aunt Jody would always welcome us with open arms whenever we traveled through Des Moines. We always looked forward to those visits.

Nephew, Thomas Heinz

Dear Aunt Jody, it’s been quite a while since we have seen each other because we live so far apart now, but, please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. We were blessed to be able to spend many weekends together when you lived in Nebraska and Iowa. One of my favorite memories is of a weekend visit with you and Uncle Gib when you lived in Omaha. Gibber was just learning how to ride a bike and Barbie was climbing a tree in your front yard. Dad took pictures of both of them, and I cherish the memories these pictures arouse. ~~ Jim and I still live in Canton, Ohio, and Karyn and Mike and their families live within an hour’s drive so we can see them often. Please know that you and your family are remembered in my prayers. God be with you!!!

Our love,
Niece and Nephew (in-law), Ellyn and Jim Dillon

40 years ago, when Gib and Jody were living in Des Moines, Linda and I would go from our home in Germantown, Iowa, down to Des Moines to visit Linda’s favorite Uncle and Aunt – Gib and Jody.

Nephew (in-law), Chuck Brockman

Jody is my aunt. I have several memories of her dating back to when Gibber was a baby in McCook. She let me hold him on the porch swing, and unfortunately I dropped him. I was horrified, but when I told her, she told me not to worry about it. The next time I remember seeing her was at Aunt Helen's funeral, and I saw that she hadn't changed a bit. One of the nicest and kindest people I've ever met.

Nephew, Mark Eggen

My memories of Aunt Jody are absolutely wonderful. She was always gracious and welcoming, Her smile lit up the room. She was fun loving and fun to be around. Loved it when she and Uncle Gib and the kids stopped at our house in Kearney on their way to the mountains.

Niece, Karen (Heinz) Roper

I remember Gib and Jody’s wedding many years ago. It was a hot NE day and I could not see the couple at the altar. I wriggled over to the aisle so I could catch Gib kiss the bride and then walk out of the church to look at her lovely gown. It was very special, just as the wedding couple. Gib and Jody were like second parents to me and I called them often in the last 30 years or more. Jody always remembered my birthday as Gib was my godfather, and always sent me a birthday card. They would also call me to share my birthday, my ups and downs. They were always there for me when others were not. I knew of Jody’s great physical problems and awful pain. To this day, I don’t know how she has been able to handle that and Gib’s ill health, and other changes so gracefully with such a faithful and cheerful attitude. I know personally that Gib loved and adored her for all of her gifts and was so proud to be married to her. I also know what a wonderful, loving and giving mother she has been to such talented and beautiful children. Jody, you have really been an angel to me, a true gift from God. You have taught me a lot by example. I wish you many more happy and healthy birthdays. May God bless you every day of your life. My love, hugs, and prayers, dear soul.

Niece, Janet Lynn Eggen

Bert Schaller’s memories of Jody

His first memory was when your dad and mom were walking down the street from Ashworth with the four of you kids, to look at the home on 21st Street. He could tell by watching how successful Jody (and you Dad) were with their family. Everyone who knew Jody commented on her smile, as did he....."beautiful smile".

He remembers what joy she took in being part of the Drake BB group and how excited she would get at the games, yelling and cheering and supporting the team, no matter what.

He also recalled how much fun your mom and mine had at the Damsel Duo Golf Tournament and how many years she invited my mom to be her guest.....they had a or lose, but I think they did very well most years.

Neighbor, Bert Schaller, relayed by daughter Cindy Spann

Sweet kind lady, loyal friend for a lifetime, truly interested in others, family oriented, dedicated mom/grandmother to her own and many others. She was always a pleasure to run into. Treasured friends of my parents to this day!

Neighbor, Linda Weidmeier

Certainly what I remember from my childhood with her in my life was her smile, sparkle in her eyes, and unconditional love, even for me. She was so incredibly patient letting us just be kids without concern about messes we might make, noise we might make including the hours and hours we played the piano or hours spent unloading the big tubes of clothes in the basement for dress up.

She encouraged our creativity and in a subtle kind way, taught us many of life's lessons. She had that "mom thing" perfected and, in retrospect, I learned so much from her approach. She has continued throughout my life to show the same loving concern for me and my parents and family.

How lucky you Eggen kids are to have such an incredible woman in your life! Love you all!

Neighbor, Cindy Spann

updated 8/20/2019

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Joan (Jody) Eggen
Her Richness is a
Caring Heart. Her Wealth,
A Beautiful Soul.