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JoEthel was born January 12, 1941, to Ethel Simmons Howard Reynolds and Joseph Willis. JoEthel loved our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and was baptized April 6, 1947, at Centennial Missionary Baptist Church in her hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi.
JoEthel attended W.A. Higgins High school, where she was a drum majorette, member of the choir, Chaplain of her senior class, and Homecoming Queen of 1958. Following her high school graduation in 1959, JoEthel went on to pursue post-secondary education. Despite initially studying nursing, JoEthel ultimately found her true passion and calling in the field of education and obtained her Bachelor of Science degree from Mississippi Valley State College in May of 1963. While attending Mississippi Valley State, JoEthel met Nat Prather, and the two of them married in December of 1963. Together JoEthel and Nat had two children, Nathaniel Prather and JoNataye Prather.
Additionally, in 1963 JoEthel embarked on what would be a thirty-plus year tenure as an educator. JoEthel began her career at George H.Oliver Elementary School in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where she taught third grade. JoEthel and her then-husband, Nat Prather, moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1965, and they both began teaching for the Cleveland Municipal School System. JoEthel taught Regular Elementary Education, ranging from first to sixth grades, for twelve years; then went on to teach Special Education for twenty-three years. Nineteen of those years, JoEthel taught at Orchard School of Science, a nationally recognized Blue Ribbon School. As a lifetime learner, JoEthel later pursued graduate coursework at John Caroll and Cleveland State Universities, earning Elementary Education and Special Education certifications.
JoEthel proudly shared her love for the Lord and was a member of Good Shepherd Baptist Church. She also served the East Cleveland community by being an engaged member of the Northeast Ohio Alliance For Hope and was a Shaw High School Band Booster Parent while her granddaughter Calysta was a band member. JoEthel loved talking on the phone and connecting with her classmates, family, and friends, keeping her lawn manicured, and enjoyed her daily ice-cold Pepsi or a hot cup of coffee.
In her later years, JoEthel was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but her fiery spirit remained despite this diagnosis. On May 17, 2021, after fighting to recover from a severe stroke, JoEthel peacefully made her transition to being with the Lord in Dallas, Texas. JoEthel is survived by her two children Nathaniel Prather (Tiffany Prather) and JoNataye Prather, four grandchildren (Na’Tasha Webb-Prather, Jonathan Prather, Calysta Little-Prather, and Nathaniel Prather Jr.), two great-grandchildren (Jonathan Prather Jr. and JeLeon Prather), a daughter-like figure Demetria Webb and a host of extended family, friends, and former students.
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