I wrote about my mother recently in a Surf Mum posting. I spent a lot of time with my mother before she passed away. But as I wrote in my story about her, much of my childhood was spent at the beach with in the company of my mother, my dad and brother Nick.
Josephine Alexandra Fournier Dedina, 73, passed away at her home near the beach Feb. 23 from ovarian cancer. Known as Jo to family and friends, she lived in Imperial Beach with her husband of 54 years, Michel Dedina.
She was born in London, England, in 1937, the youngest of three daughters of Lou and Dorothy Fournier.
German bombing raids during World War II and the experience of being evacuated to the north of England later influenced her anti-war and environmental activism as well as a future career on behalf of children’s welfare.Upon moving to Imperial Beach with her family in 1971, Jo quickly became involved in ultimately successful efforts to preserve the Tijuana Estuary from development, during which time Jo met Mike and Patricia McCoy.
“I really loved her. I really did,” Patricia said.
The two woman had a lot in common. Both grew up in World War II England and shared a “wicked” sense of humor and love for the environment and justice.
“It’s hard to put it into words but she was a very spirited and principled person, and she taught her boys to fight for what was true and right and I think that it shows,” Patricia said. “She brought them up to respect these things, people rights and that sort of thing.”
In 1974, Jo and her family moved to El Salvador in Central America for a year.
There, she volunteered in an orphanage. The poverty and injustice witnessed played a role in her decision to earn a law degree at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
For 30 years, Jo specialized in juvenile justice to aid children and families across San Diego County as a public defender and judge pro tem.
The Dedinas traveled widely and lived in Paris, London, New York City, the Cornish Coast of England, Los Angeles, El Salvador and Morocco.
Both warmhearted and quick-witted, Jo loved cooking and entertaining for family and friends.
After retiring, she spent time gardening, doting on her three grandsons, reading mystery novels and doing the daily crossword puzzle. She loved visiting family abroad, before advancing multiple sclerosis made travel too difficult.
Family members, including her niece, Zena and her husband, Martin Bray, frequently traveled from England to Imperial Beach to see her and help care for her as her health declined.
“She kept her spirit until the end and she never let people see it get her down except for close friends,” Patricia said.
Jo is survived by her husband, Michel Dedina, their two sons, Serge and Nick, and three grandsons, Israel, Daniel and Paolo.
A memorial service will be held Sunday, March 6 from 1–4 p.m. at the Dempsey Holder Safety Center in Imperial Beach in the lifeguard station.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Imperial Beach Boys & Girls Club.