Joan Head left a remarkable impact on everyone she met, her children say, and she never met a stranger.

“I think Joan would be someone who Pope Francis might call a face of mercy,” grandson Tyler Head said.

Mrs. Head died June 9 at age 87.

Mrs. Head raised six children with her husband, Loren Head. Carl Head, one of their four sons, recalled that while he was growing up on the family farm near Ashland, his mother never failed to provide physical and emotional care for her family and many others.

“Never met anyone that wasn’t family,” Carl Head said. “Because of that, everyone would come to our house to hang out. A lot of the kids didn’t have good homes, so she not only created a great home for us but for them.”

He and his siblings said their mother accepted everyone. “We were really blessed to have someone with that kind of mind growing up,” he said.

Mrs. Head worked for the beauty company Avon for many years. It was up to her to organize, sell and distribute the orders each week.

“Everyone knew her as the ‘The Red-Headed Avon Lady,’” daughter Kate Reeder said. “She hired anyone, no matter who they were or where they came from. She would pull people out of bad spots to work with her at Avon.”

Her dedication to what she loved in her life shone brightly in her careers. She also was a certified professional secretary and worked for former Columbia Mayor Herbert Jeans.

“She was the best salesperson for her entire career,” daughter-in-law Laurie Head said. “They just about ran out of awards to give her. She really cared what people thought and felt and where they were.”

Reeder said her mother was able to handle both work and family well. “Growing up at home, I never once felt her stress,” Reeder said.

Son Ken Head said his mother was a go-getter, no matter the circumstances.

Joan Head

Joan Head

“We were having a good time fishing,” he recalled. “All of a sudden, I notice she’s on all fours having a kidney stone attack. In the midst of this, she’s telling me, ‘Go ahead and fish!’ I, of course, took her straight to the emergency room.”

Stepdaughter Debby Duermeyer said she didn’t grow up with Mrs. Head, but “she really stepped up and filled a role as my mom.”

Mrs. Head kept in touch with Duermeyer’s biological mother, and when Duermeyer was 13, Mrs. Head arranged a family vacation to California during which Duermeyer got to meet her.

“It takes a person with a huge heart to do something like that,” Duermeyer said.

Daughter-in-law Debbie Head said the two became especially close after Mrs. Head had lung surgery.

“She would call me every day to tell me what the weather was,” Debbie Head said. “If it was going to be raining, she would say, ‘Today, we’re just gonna have to make our own sunshine.’”

Several of her children called Mrs. Head a “prayer warrior” and said her big heart came from her strong faith. She regularly attended Faith Family Church in Ashland.

“She actually practiced what she preached, and not a breath of hypocrisy about her,” Laurie Head said.

“I really had to mature to see where her strength came from,” Ken Head said. “It took me a long time to understand why she was almost always in a good mood and so positive, and that was because of her faith in the Lord.”

Mrs. Head lost her vision later in her life due to macular degeneration. Her children remember the family having to reading to her then because Mrs. Head had been a big reader all her life.

“It was really disheartening when she was unable to read. It was hard to watch ‘Mrs. Independent’ have to stay at home,” he said. “But she was never negative about any of it at all.”

Mrs. Head was the glue that held her big family together.

“She molded and shaped all of us,” Kevin Head said. “She was my No. 1 influence in my life. She was always saying, ‘Go anywhere you want to go.’”

The family farm, Fox Hollow, is about five miles west of Ashland. Laurie Head described it “a beautiful little homestead tucked down in the river hills.” Mrs. Head is buried there, next to her husband, who died in 2009.

“When I think of my best self that I can be in the future, it’s shaped by her,” Tyler Head said. “She will be an icon of reference of how I should love family and non-family.”

  • General Assignment reporter, summer 2020 Studying magazine journalism Reach me at, or in the newsroom at 882-5720

  • Elizabeth Brixey is a city editor at the Columbia Missourian. She oversees coverage of education. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and

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