Joanne (Placek) Sokalsky
Joanne Sokalsky (Placek) of Papillion passed away peacefully on Friday, January 22, 2021. She is now reunited with her beloved husband, Anthony Sokalsky, and parents, Anton and Agnes Placek whom she dearly missed.
Joanne sparkled with a joyous outlook on life and met its challenges with cheerful resolve even as her health began failing. She was kind and compassionate toward others and shared her uplifting spirit with all she knew.
Joanne was a dedicated and distinguished Spanish and Business teacher at Omaha South High School (SHS) for 44 years. She received her B.S. in Education in 1958 from Omaha University (now UNO) in Spanish and Business and was awarded an M.A. in Spanish in 1962 from Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico where she spent summers living with a family. In 1966 she received a National Defense Education Act Scholarship to study at the University of Salamanca in Spain. Joanne described these immersive cultural experiences as having “died and gone to Heaven!”
Over the course of her career Joanne mentored at least 36 student teachers and in her third year of teaching was assigned Anthony Sokalsky. Joanne described him as “a very formal gentleman from Europe who fluently spoke eight languages and read and understood four others.” They married in 1972 and lived the happiest years of their lives together until Anthony’s untimely death in 1984
Joanne had a deep commitment to her faith, community and profession. She served on the parish council, teaching Sunday school, preparing children to receive their first Holy Communion and serving as Secretary of the Altar Society at the Assumption of the B.V.M Ukrainian Catholic Church. She volunteered at the Montclair Nursing Center, served as an officer in Kappa Kappa Iota (professional teachers’ organization) and arranged luncheons twice a year for all retired SHS teachers. She sponsored Future Teachers of America, served as senior class sponsor, was on the Honors and Awards Scholarship committee and the Commencement Speaker Selection committee. She was co-founder of the National Spanish Honor Society, the first chapter in an Omaha public school. She managed Omaha Ole, a citywide Spanish convention. She was a member of the Omaha Education Association, Nebraska State Education Association, and National Education Association.
Joanne’s awards and recognitions include the coveted Alice Buffet Outstanding Teacher Award, Excellence in Education from the American G.I. Forum, and Star Award (Outstanding Foreign Language Teacher). She was listed in “Who’s Who in American Education” three times and was inducted into the SHS Hall of fame and named a Distinguished Teacher in 2014. Joanne credited several educators for her success, including her Spanish teacher, Delizia Rindone; Dr. Paul Kennedy and Dr. Cristobal Espinosa from UNO; Dr. Richard Krebs, former principal of SHS; and Alice Giitter and Roland Hinrichs, teachers at SHS.
Despite all of Joanne’s professional achievements in her words “the biggest awards are to see former students make good in their lives, whichever direction this may take.” If you were one of Joanne’s students, you know that she took great joy in your scholarship and friendship. She held you in her thoughts throughout her life.
Joanne leaves behind many cherished decades-long friends in Omaha and throughout the country, including her closest friends Sherri (George) Macht, Julia Galenda and family, Jim Faiman, and Vija (Gene) Kopecky, Barb Seifert, countless other friends and hundreds of former Omaha South High students, and teachers. Joanne will be sorely missed and never forgotten.
Because of COVID, the private Funeral Mass at Assumption of the B.V.M Ukrainian Catholic Church on Friday, January 29, 2021 at 11:00am will be live-streamed at www.heafeyheafey.com (click the “View Live Service” button on the home page). Private Christian Burial at Calvary Cemetery following Mass.
Donations in Joanne’s memory may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105 or to the Omaha South High School Scholarship Fund at Omaha South High School Alumni Association, 5082 S 107th Street, Omaha NE 68127 | 402-738-9493.