Jo Helmstetter


Mrs. Jo Helmstetter, our loving Momma, Nanny, Gigi, sister, and Mama Jo to all, has left us with a heavy heart, but her memory will forever warm our souls.

She passed away peacefully at her home in Deep Creek on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, at the age of 78, with her family by her side. Jo was one of 13 children, and was born March 25, 1945, in Ivor, Va., to the late Robert Henry Jones and the late Bertha Lee Jones.

Jo worked in the cafeteria at Mary N. Smith Middle School and later at Metompkin Elementary, where she greeted children with her sweet smile for decades. She also worked in the kitchen for many years at the former Hunger Haven Restaurant, which later became Mallards Restaurant. As the Morrisons’ first employee, Mama Jo was a valued member of their team and honorary member of their family. Her passion for cooking shone through in every meal she prepared, whether in the school cafeteria or the restaurant.

What truly set Mama Jo apart was her boundless capacity to love. She had a heart that was open to everyone, and her smile could brighten the gloomiest of days. Her coworkers, students, and restaurant patrons all adored her, not only for her culinary talents but for the genuine kindness and warmth she exuded.

Family was at the center of Jo’s life. She was a devoted mother, grandmother, and sister. Her love and closeness with her family were evident to anyone who had the privilege of knowing her. Family gatherings were a cherished tradition, filled with laughter, shared stories, and, of course, her delicious meals. Jo especially looked forward to ‘trippin’ with her sisters, adventures that were always filled with fun and treasured moments.

Jo is survived by her daughters, Brenda Reynolds, of Bloxom, Michelle Check, of Deep Creek, and Kristin Ann Zach and her husband, Andrew, of Melfa; siblings, Sue Poe, of Richmond, Wayne Jones, of Ivor, Faye Drewery and her husband, Joe, of Elberon, Va., Milway Jones and his wife, Tootsie, of Ivor, and Phyllis Bick and her husband, Frank, of Smithfield; grandchildren, Samantha Mattern (David), David Mamahit, Sarah Mamahit, Trent Check, and Avrey Check; great-granddaughter, Caroline Parks; brothers-in-law, Big Cook and Gene Heppding; dear friends, Hope Zember, the Checks and the Morrises; and numerous nieces and nephews and their families; all of whom will mourn her passing but are grateful for the beautiful memories she created and the love she gave. Mama Jo’s spirit will live on in the hearts of those she touched, and her memory will forever remind us to find joy in every moment and to share love with all we meet.

In addition to her parents, she was predeceased by five of her siblings, Lucille Crocker, and her husband, Short, Robert “Bubba” Jones and his wife, Rachel, Dot Logan and her husband, Pete, Curly Beale and her husband, Pete, Nancy Cook; as well as Mary Jones and John Jones, who both died in infancy; and sister-in-law, Jane Heppding.

A graveside “pfuneral” service will be held at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, at noon, followed by a gathering to celebrate Jo’s life at 1 p.m. at Off the Rails, 18497 Dunne Ave., Parksley, VA.

In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests donations be made to the Foodbank of the Eastern Shore, P.O. Box 518, Onley, VA 23418,

Jo would also want to encourage all to remember the importance of gathering as a family to enjoy a meal and love on one another.

Jo’s family is grateful to the many friends who visited and checked in and would like to extend their deepest gratitude to the doctors, nurses, and staff with TidalHealth Cancer Center and Intrepid Hospice, as it was their continued care and compassion that ensured her comfort in her last months.

Memory tributes may be shared with the family at

Arrangements are by the Williams-Onancock Funeral Home.

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