Mary Jo (Curtis) Surprenant, age 84, of Kansas City, Missouri, passed away on January 22, 2023, peacefully and surrounded by her children, after a short illness.
Mary Jo was born August 10th, 1938, in Slayton, MN, to Mary and Glenn Curtis. She married Ken Surprenant on April 23, 1960, at St. Ann's Catholic Church, Slayton, MN. She is survived by her son, Gregory (Tami) of Montrose, MN; daughter, Margaret Ostrowski (Dave) of Venice, FL; daughter, Theresa Surprenant (Ian) Barker of Kansas City, MO; son, Chad (Tara) of Sioux Falls, SD; grandchildren, Jon (Mallory) Altenhofen of Chicago, IL, Meredith Altenhofen (Tad) Stebbins of Denver, CO, and Noah, Ellie, and Caleb Surprenant of Sioux Falls, SD; great grandchildren, Hudson and Oliver Stebbins; siblings, Colleen Reiter of Minnetonka, MN, Mike Curtis of Hampton, VA, Pat (Mark) Donaldson of Knoxville, TN, and Kathleen (Charlie) Blesener of Elk River, MN; and Ken’s siblings who made her one of their own, Doris Peterson, Ralph Surprenant, Phyllis Ahrndt, Jim (Barb) Surprenant, Leo Surprenant, Bernadette Koester, Fr. Paul Surprenant, Joan Surprenant and Mike Surprenant. She was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Ken; brothers, Dan Curtis and Tom Curtis; brothers- and sisters-in-law, Fr. John Surprenant, Jim Steffen, Hugh Gervais, Steve Koester, Bob Reiter, Louise Gervais, Vern Ahrndt, Floyd Peterson, Myrna Surprenant and Mary Surprenant; nephew, Philip Steffen; and son-in-law, Mike Altenhofen.
Mary Jo was valedictorian of her high school class in Slayton, MN. The oldest of 7 children, after graduating, Mary Jo worked at the bank in Slayton where she formed lifelong friendships and helped support her family. She met Ken Surprenant while out with the bank girls at Valhalla in Currie, Minnesota, and the two started their adventures together soon thereafter. Mary Jo and Ken moved to Minneapolis, where their first son Greg was born but they were soon called back to farming. After the arrival of their two girls, they made the big decision that would forever change their lives giving up farming to move to Ames, IA, where Mary Jo supported the family, working overnight shifts, while Ken earned his degree in Civil Engineering from Iowa State University. Mary Jo continued working to help support their young family while Ken worked in various engineering positions in southern Minnesota. Now a family of 6, in 1973, Mary Jo and Ken took the biggest risk of their lives and invested everything they had to found I&S Engineers, now ISG, in the basement of their Mankato home. Ken was the engineer. Mary Jo was the businesswoman.
For Mary Jo and Ken, the business and the family were always intertwined, and Mary Jo was fiercely and steadfastly devoted to both. All four of their children were a regular presence in the office, and Mary Jo loved that she could work long hours and have her family around her. When not working she attended her children’s sporting, theater, and musical events. As the company grew with leadership shifting from Ken to her son Chad and the eventual transitioning of her broad duties to experts in their fields, Mary Jo retained her role as confidante, second mom, counselor, and friend to generations of staff, clients, and partners alike.
To know Mary Jo was to appreciate her intelligence, her wealth of knowledge, and her amazing sense of humor. She loved to tell stories and laugh with family and friends until tears streamed down her cheeks. She was a big personality. She loved clothes, and her preference was big patterns and bright colors. She was informed and opinionated. She was comfortable debating her side of an issue.
Mary Jo deeply mourned Ken’s death in 2011 and was very proud that, in the depths of her grief, she was able to reinvent herself and forge new friendships and a rewarding life. She joined several book clubs, became president of the Mankato chapter of Lifelong Learners, and she continued to travel, but now with new travelling partners, and not her beloved Ken. Mary Jo would seldom turn down a good road trip. She took many international trips to Europe, the Holy Land, Canada, “sibling trips” and had been to all 50 states, capping it off with an Alaska trip with her daughters, making sure that none of them hit 50 before the others.
Mary Jo always said she would “not go gently into that good night”. She lived many full chapters throughout her life, and when it mattered most, she finished her book by fighting a failing body to have the conversations and laughter she wanted on her last day.
Mary Jo will be greatly missed by her family for whom nothing came above, and by all the others for whom her life touched.
Visitation will take place from 4-7 PM, Monday, January 30, 2023 at Mankato Mortuary, 1001 N Riverfront Dr., in Mankato. Funeral Service officiated by Fr. Robert Schneider will be at 10:00 AM, Tuesday, January 31, 2023 at All Saints Catholic Church, Madison Lake with continued visitation one hour prior to the service. Interment will follow at Calvary Cemetery, Madison Lake. A luncheon celebration will be held at Tav on the Ave in Mankato immediately following the burial.