A Tribute to Jo Rhodes

He who marries a wife does a good thing and finds favor with the Lord.

John Rhodes is the “dean” of ministerial secretaries. He is now retired and lives with his wife, Jo, in Riverside, California.

The wise man says in Proverbs 18:22, “He that marries a wife does a good thing, and he will find favor with the Lord.” Solomon must have had Jo in mind when he wrote that. Jo was my answer to prayer.

When we were students at La Sierra College, I was in my junior year and realized I would need a wife to get a call to the ministry. While I had dated Jo’s roommates and later married two of them—I hasten to mention, to other men—I hadn’t really known Jo. A fellow student suggested to me one Friday night that we hike up Two Bit, the large hill behind the college. There he would join me in prayer that God would lead me to the right girl to marry. A few days after that, I was at the old college hall. It was Skate Night and the dean said, “See that girl out there?” and pointed to Jo. “Why don’t you ask her for a skate?” I took him up on his suggestion. Immediately I fell for her, and we dated the rest of that year. At the end of the year, we had a simple wedding in a little chapel near my home off Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles.

Who was this lovely girl? Jo was the youngest of two sisters and two brothers. She grew up in White Bear, Minnesota. Her father died at age 42. Her two brothers got married, as did her sister. The other sister took up nursing, and Jo was left behind. She got a train ticket from her brother, who worked for the railroad, and went to live with an uncle in California. She took a job at the Glendale Sanitarium in housekeeping and saved enough to start working her way through nursing at La Sierra College.

Jo worked as a secretary to the dean of women when she was going to school. After our marriage, she used these skills to get a job at Norton Air Force Base. I got a job as an attendant at Patton State Hospital, working nights, and went to school part-time during the days, which enabled me to finish my junior year. Jo and I were people of faith—we had $40 between us on our wedding day.

We lived in Loma Linda in a little $15-a-month cot­tage. The next summer, I colporteured and Jo worked as a secretary at a trucking company. We then moved to Pacific Union College for my final year of ministerial training.

Jo was creative and made orange crates into bedside tables with curtains in front and doilies on top. She made our attic home so attractive. Jo worked as secretary to the librarian, and I worked as a cook in the kitchen. With my colporteur scholarship and both of us working part-time, we ended the year with only $8 in debt.

After camp meeting I began my ministry at Cedar Falls, a conference summer camp, as a boy’s counselor. Jo got a job in the kitchen. After the boys were sleeping, we would tell each other good night behind the trees for a few minutes. We got our first pay check and felt rich with the little we had made.

Thus began more than 40 years of ministry. Folks always loved Jo. At our first baby shower, the church ral­lied around her and literally showered her with baby gifts. Jo would say, “I have no talents,” yet her modest humility was her greatest gift. I have seen many a pastor’s ministry ruined by a pushy wife. Jo’s greatest contribution was her warm concern as a greeter at the door of the church. She would direct folks to my pastor’s class. We were a team. Jo was a devoted homemaker. With just a little, she made things look elegant. She took classes on healthful cooking, and I give credit to her for my many healthy years.

Jo went back to school after our children were in school and earned a nursing degree from Long Beach City College, where she made the dean’s list (with great distinction) and scored a 99 percent on her National League of Nursing exams. For the last 20 years of her career, she worked for a surgeon as his nurse. She retired at the age of 72. From time to time, we bump into a patient who knew Jo, and they are always happy to see her again. The doctor she worked with attests to how much the patients loved her and missed her when she retired.

As a team, we celebrate 18 years as retiree directors. At retiree retreats, she serves as a hostess, making each attendee feel welcome. I can say with Solomon, “He who marries a wife does a good thing and finds favor with the Lord,” as I did with Jo as my companion of 64 years so far, as of last September 6.