Joan Lois Gordon [1935-2013]; Chamber leader left mark on B.G.


BOWLING GREEN — Joan Lois Honkala Gordon of Bowling Green, a former executive director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, who served on the Wood County Committee on Aging and orchestrated projects throughout Wood County, died Monday in Bridge Hospice at Heritage Corners.

She was 78.

She died of liver cancer, her husband, James, said.

From the time Mrs. Gordon began working in 1958 at a library in Elyria, Ohio, her eye for organization and detail was put to use.

“She never made a mistake, and when the director came to check her work it was perfect. She had an eagle eye for correcting things,” her husband said.

Born Jan. 29, 1935, in Painesville, Ohio, she and her husband met at Bowling Green State University in 1956. They worked on the university newspaper, she as a reporter, and he as a photographer. They married in 1957.

A brief stint in Elyria was followed by a move to Columbus, where she received a bachelor's degree in education from Ohio State University.

In 1959, Mr. Gordon was offered a job at Bowling Green State University as director of news and photography services. After teaching English and journalism at Bowling Green High School for two years, she took a break to rear their two children.

In 1968, she became a radio and TV editor for the Sentinel-Tribune, followed by public information director at WBGU-TV from 1972 to 1984.

“Then she was lured away, in 1984, and hired as executive director of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce,” Mr. Gordon said. She retired in 1999.

In that position, Mrs. Gordon made the proper connections to get things done in town.

“She was always on top of the situation and trying to move the agenda forward,” Mayor Richard Edwards said.

One of the changes she made was to the yearly lighting of the Christmas tree in front of the public library. She helped raise funds for the July 4th fireworks display.

Her aptitude for ideas, organizing, and keeping projects moving led to the formation of Leadership BG. Part of the chamber’s project was to faciliatate introductions, mostly university administrators, to bank employees, city, state, and county officials.

The group learned how to network, a tool that Mrs. Gordon found useful in obtaining money for a new kitchen to serve meals to the city’s senior citizens.

Denise Niese, executive director for the Wood County Committee on Aging, said Mrs. Gordon, who served as president in 2004 and co-president in 2011, mentored her in her new position, and introduced Mrs. Niese to the community by engaging her in civic projects.

She also was instrumental in securing state funds for a kitchen in 2006 that serves food to the seven senior centers throughout Wood County.

She facilitated discussions with state representatives that resulted in $500,000 for the kitchen in the 2004-05 Ohio budget, Mrs. Niese said. She raised the rest of the money through private donors and bequests. Today, the kitchen serves more than 800 meals a day.

She was active in the Bowling Green Kiwanis, League of Women Voters Bowling Green, Bowling Green Kiwanis, and she organized the city’s 175th anniversary party in 2003.

“You could go through the community in Bowling Green and see a Joan Gordon thumbprint on it,” Mayor Edwards said. “She is almost irreplaceable.”

She is survived by her husband James, son Kevin, daughter Melissa Gordon-Johnson, brother Richard Honkala, and three grandchildren.

Visitation is from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Dunn Funeral Home, Bowling Green. Services will be at 1 p.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church.

Memorials are suggested to scholarship funds of the Kiwanis Club, League of Women Voters, the Chamber of Commerce, BGSU Retirees Association, or the Gordon Scholarship Fund of the BGSU Foundation.

Contact Natalie TrussoCafarello at: or 419-206-0356.