Remembering Hanceville’s Joann Walls: friends share fond memories as service details announced


Joann Walls passed away on Friday, July 14, 2017. / Facebook

HANCEVILLE – Family members have announced that a memorial service for Joann Hartley Walls will be held this coming Saturday, July 22, at Hanceville First United Methodist Church, 704 Commercial St. in Hanceville.  The service will begin at 2 p.m.

Walls’ passing on Friday, July 14, impacted many people in Hanceville and surrounding communities for one reason: the life she lived for the last 84 years had already made its own impact.

Born Joann Hartley on Sept. 25, 1932 in Gadsden, she graduated from West End High School in Birmingham in 1950.  She was married to Glenn Walls, and worked for Alabama Power for 37 years.

After her husband’s passing, Walls moved to Hanceville, where she became active at Hanceville First United Methodist Church and worked at the Hanceville Library.  She was constantly active in her new community, helping found the Hanceville Civitan Club, serving on Hanceville’s City Council, and taking part in many charitable activities.

Among Walls’ numerous achievements and places of service:

  • Co-founder and charter member of Hanceville Civitan Club, 1990
  • Held numerous local and district Civitan offices, including terms as North Alabama District Governor in 1998 and 1999.
  • As a Civitan officer, helped organize the Cullman County Christmas Parade in Hanceville, and served for several years as Chairperson
  • Worked with People Against a Littered State (PALS), serving as Cullman County “Adopt-a-Mile” program Chairperson, 2001-12
  • Councilwoman, Hanceville City Council, 2001-12
  • Hanceville Library Board, 2001-04, 2008-16; Chairperson 2014-16
  • Hanceville Mayor Pro Tem, 2008-12
  • Cullman County Mental Health Board, 2002-13
  • Helped found the Hanceville Historical Preservation Group, 2004; served as treasurer
  • Member, Cullman County Republican Women; 4th vice president, 2014-15
  • Member of the Hanceville Culture Club
  • Active member of Hanceville First United Methodist Church, teaching children’s and adult Sunday School classes and serving as church treasurer
  • Volunteer with Hanceville Knapsacks for Kids
  • The Joann Walls Center, a Hanceville shopping center, is named after her
  • 2014 recipient of the Lucille Galin Public Service Award, given by the Cullman County Mayors and Commissioners Association to non-elected persons who make significant contributions to the community

Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail spoke to The Tribune about his relationship with Walls.

“I served on the city council with Ms. Joann Walls, and she always loved Hanceville,” he said. “Anything that was positive for Hanceville, Ms. Walls was for it.  She loved the city employees, and loved the people of Hanceville.  She was always one of the first to fight for the city employees, because she just cared about them. 

“I’ll tell you how close she was to our family: my mom got in bad health, and she went to Ms. Walls and said, ‘I’m not going to be here much longer; when I’m gone, I want you to help Kenneth and watch after him.  My mom wouldn’t have just done that to anybody.  That’s how our family felt about Ms. Joann Walls.

“She loved me, but if I did something that wasn’t in the best taste or if I said something on the spur of the moment, she was not shy to tell me about that.  Of course, she told me in a loving manner, but she would tell me, or other council members. 

“In the past, our council meetings could get a little heated.  If I said something she didn’t like, she’d say, ‘Now, that’s tacky.’  If you got one ‘tacky,’ you knew you’d messed up.  If you got two ‘tackys,’ ooh, that’s bad.  But if Ms. Walls ever said, ‘Tacky, tacky, tacky,’ boy, you knew you had just really messed up!

“She loved the Civitans; it was all about promoting good citizenship, about being positive; pulling people up, and not beating people down.  If every citizen could care about the town half as much as what Joann Walls did, then we’d be in good shape.

“If you look in the dictionary for ‘class,’ there should be a picture of Ms. Joann Walls right after the definition.  I can sit here all day and tell you great things about Ms. Walls, but if I had to narrow it down: a true patriot, a person that had true love for her city, classy, and a fine Christian woman.” 

Nail is preparing to issue a proclamation naming Saturday, July 22 as Joann Walls Day in Hanceville.  After her death was announced, he ordered flags at Hanceville City Hall and other municipal buildings to be flown at half-staff for three days.

Sandy Waters, of the Hanceville Civitan Club and Hanceville First United Methodist Church, shared a few memories.

She said, “I knew Joann on many different levels: a sister in Christ, a fellow Civitan, a Knapsacks for Kids volunteer, and a friend.  Joann loved people and her community.  She was instrumental in starting the Cullman County Christmas parade which was sponsored by the Hanceville Civitans.  She had an absolutely wonderful, optimistic outlook on life, always upbeat and positive, even when faced with challenges.  She served on many different committees at HFUMC, and held various offices including treasurer.  Our church, Civitans, and our community will truly miss this remarkable woman.”

Walls was a Republican, but one of her best longtime friends is not only a Democrat, but a Democratic Party politician.  Former State Representative and possible future candidate James Fields spoke of Walls with a tremble in his voice, relating both memories and feelings.

He began with a happy account of a road trip he took with his then 83-year old friend just last year.

“She and I made a journey to Norfolk, Virginia last year,” said Fields. “She drove from her house to Chattanooga; and when we got on the way, she told me she had two rules: ‘Don’t tell me how fast I’m going, and don’t tell me when to get over.’

“She said what she meant, and she meant what she said.  She was always fashionably late, but she was always fashionable.  You didn’t get nothing by her.

“When we’d go places, I was always her son.  When I visited her in the hospital or other places, I’d say, ‘I’m her son, and I need to see my mother.’  I think some people actually believed that, but I always went right on in.

“She was a staunch Republican, and I’m a staunch Democrat, but Joann Walls was a friend to James Fields.  She’d do anything for me.  You weren’t going to talk about James Fields in front of her.  When I ran, I heard she even told her Republican friends, ‘I’m voting for James Fields.’

In 1999, following the death of Fields’ wife Willie Mae Fields, Walls established a memorial scholarship in Willie Mae’s name at Hanceville High School, providing a $500 grant for a graduating senior to take to the college of his or her choice.

“She’d give you her last…,” concluded Fields. “She had a kind spirit. She was polite, a sweet, sweet person. She’s going to be missed.”

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