Joanne (Jo) R. Turnpenny, 52 of Newfield, New York, passed away at home on Saturday, June 10, 2017.

Joanne was born in Johnson City and raised in Vestal, New York.  Joanne was the youngest of three children and the only daughter of the late Barbara L. and William F. Turnpenny of Vestal, New York.

Joanne is survived by her wife Constance (Conni) S. Allen, Newfield, whom she met at Light on the Hill, a spiritual retreat center in Van Etten, New York in 2010.  Jo and Conni were married on December 31, 2014, in Seneca Falls, New York at the Wesleyan Chapel.  Joanne is also survived by: her brother, William Mark Turnpenny of Clinton, New York; her nephew, Ben Turnpenny of Whitney Point, New York; and her niece, Meghan Turnpenny of Boynton Beach, Florida.  In addition to her parents, Jo was preceded in death by her brother, John Turnpenny.

Jo was a graduate of Vestal High School, class of 1983.  She continued her education, earning a Bachelor of Science degree from SUNY Binghamton University in 1988.  After college, Jo worked as a software systems engineer at Digicomp Research Corp. in Ithaca from 1988 until her death.

Jo was a member of St. Paul's Methodist Church in Ithaca and, before that, a member of Vestal United Methodist Church.

Jo was well traveled.  Due to her father's job at IBM, the family moved to Germany for two years when Jo was in 6th and 7th grade.  During that time, her father and mother toured Europe and enjoyed its culture with the family.  Jo once said it was the best time she remembered with her family.  As an adult, Jo and her mother toured different countries and states.  Jo's job at Digicomp required her to visit different military bases across the country, and she enjoyed sightseeing on those trips as well.  It was on a tour with her mother that Jo became infatuated with birds.

Jo was in her element birding or building.  She loved birding and always had a pair of binoculars nearby or in the car just in case she heard or saw a bird.  Birding was more than just a hobby to her; it was a meditation.  Jo first became interested in birds with her mother at a young age.  As her interest grew, so did her knowledge about birds and the natural world.  When Jo met her wife Conni, she made sure that Conni was educated about the birds of western New York.  In fact, Jo bought Conni her first pair of binoculars and enrolled them in the birding class at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Jo's favorite birds were water birds and, in particular, wood ducks.

Jo's other passion was building, woodworking, working with tools, creating and saving wood.  Jo was not one to throw away any wood if she thought she might make something out of what she rescued.  Jo attended the Hammerstone School Carpentry for Women; however, she had quite a bit of experience and skill with wood prior to this class.  Jo would relax by reading tool guides or anything pertaining to wood prior to going to sleep.

The garage was Joanne’s workshop and, as she worked, she would play a music mix she created on her Bosch Power Box.  Joanne’s taste in music varied.  For example, she loved to listen to Jewel while she worked in her workshop, but on Sundays she rarely missed "Best of Broadway," on WICB radio.  As she listened to the Broadway tunes, she tried to identify the song to the musical.  Her favorite musicals were Phantom of the Opera and Wicked, but it wasn't just the musical, she loved the music and certain singers, like Angela Lansbury. And if a new movie musical opened, she wanted to go.  Even losing her eyesight did not discourage her from going to the movies to see Beauty and the Beast or LaLa Land, because she so enjoyed the music.

For the past four years, Jo battled inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer.  In the years Jo battled with this disease it stole her hair, her ability to walk (she was in a wheel chair few weeks), and her vision (due to radiation), which was devastating.  Cancer stole her independence -- she could no longer drive, or see the birds she so loved.  This spring, she said, "if I could only see a bird, I know I would feel better."  And yet, the cancer did not steal her courage and strength, her generosity, her gentleness and the light in her beautiful blue eyes.  She soldiered on until the end of her life with grace.

In the years Jo battled cancer she was a member of the noon group at the Cancer Resource Center in Ithaca.  There, with the other women telling their stories, she found comfort, understanding and camaraderie.

The spiritual and magical powers of the natural world are endless. Every spring, Jo hoped wood ducks would nest on the pond at the little house where she and Conni lived, but for whatever reason, the ducks chose another area. Just a day or two before Jo passed away, a friend spotted two woods ducks on the pond.  Immediately, Jo was told about the arrival of the elusive wood ducks and, with the little strength she had left, she smiled.  It was a powerful moment for those who were witness to it.

In review or assessment of Jo's life, there is a question that Emily Dickinson once asked of herself:  "What sort of bird have I been?"  Like a wood duck, Jo possessed a beautiful, caring and peaceful soul.  Jo was devoted to Conni and a loyal friend, steady, and reliable.  Her bravery was quiet, not boastful.

One of Jo's favorite songs was "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield, with these lyrics: "I'm just beginning, the pen's in my hand, ending unplanned."

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes (

A graveside service will be held at 2pm, Friday, June 16th at Greensprings Natural Cemetery, 293 Irish Hill Road, Newfield, NY.

There will be a memorial drum circle and fireside celebration of Jo's life at 6pm, Saturday, June 24th at Joanne’s and Conni’s home in Newfield.