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Joan M. Milani

March 1, 1939 ~ June 24, 2020 (age 81)


Joan Milani—a wonderful wife, magnificent mom, faithful friend and person whose pastoral presence touched many lives—passed away on June 24, 2020. Born on March 1, 1939 in Peoria, Illinois, Joan's life was formed by her Catholic faith and schooling at Peoria's Academy of Our Lady, Mount Saint Scholastica College, and Loyola University.  

Joan met her husband, Ken, at Bradley University where she needed data (i.e., Ken's class notes), and he needed a date for an upcoming dance. As they walked to her off-campus home after class, a romance blossomed and led to their marriage on August 17, 1963. Sons, Mike and Adam, were born within 28 months of the wedding while daughter Maria was adopted in 1970.

Joan taught at Notre Dame High for Girls (in Chicago) before the family returned to Peoria where she became a full-time mom. Following two graduate school stints, Joan and Ken moved to South Bend in 1972.

Joan was an invaluable volunteer before becoming Assistant to the Director of Religious Education at Sacred Heart Parish. That position led her to a healing ministry as an Advocate for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend Marriage Tribunal. In an effort to encourage lasting and solid marriages, Joan became the Pre-Cana Program Coordinator in the Office of Campus Ministry at the University of Notre Dame. Following a life-changing injury to Adam, Joan returned to school and became a certified hospital chaplain at St. Joseph's Hospital (Mishawaka).

Joan's retirement from chaplaincy allowed her to channel her energies to several ministries including the ethics board of the Center for Hospice Care, Call to Action, St. Margaret's House, and facilitating several sessions for survivors of clergy abuse.

An avid reader and lover of movies and plays, Joan enjoyed walking and talking with Ken and others. She was a loving grandmother to David Rogers, Michael Rogers, Hannah Dokey, Tim Milani and Katie Milani. As a caring neighbor to many, Joan became the "unofficial chaplain" of New London Lake Condominiums.

Sadly, Alzheimer's diminished Joan's ability to read and recall. The condition eventually limited her mobility. She continued as a beacon of hope and joy during the last five years of her life as a resident of North Woods Village Memory Care Center.

Three of Joan's sisters (Sallie Whelan, Barbara Burgess and Marilyn Shoellhorn) will greet Joan in heaven, along with her mother, Mildred Whelan, and her father, Ralph Whelan. One sister, Karen Whelan, lives in Peoria.

Adam and Maria will hug and leap for joy as their mom enters heaven. Mike and Ken will grieve and grin. Sadness will surface as they experience the end of Joan's earthly journey. They will smile as they envision Joan's new home for eternity. Others joining in the burdens and benefits of Joan's passing include her brother-in-law, Kent Shoellhorn; nieces, Anne Hughes and Kara Nawrocki; nephew, Scott Shoellhorn; along with Brie Dokey, Maysen Dokey, Aiden Rogers, Walela Rogers and Melinda Juarez.

There will be a private Catholic burial service. Joan’s ashes will be interred at Cedar Grove Cemetery on the campus of University of Notre Dame. A memorial celebration of Joan's life will be scheduled at a later date. Palmer Funeral Home—Hickey Chapel is assisting the family with arrangements.

Contributions to honor Joan's memory can be made to St. Margaret's House, 117 N. Lafayette Boulevard, South Bend, IN 46601; or Food Bank of Northern Indiana, 702 Chapin Street, South Bend, IN 46601.

Online condolences may be left for the Milani family at

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Private Committal

Cedar Grove Cemetery

Notre Dame, IN 46556


St. Margaret's House
117 N. Lafayette Blvd., South Bend IN 46601

Food Bank of Northern Indiana
702 Chapin Street, South Bend IN 46601
Tel: 1-574-232-9986

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