Jo Finley Elder was born in Dayton, OH. After her parents divorced, she and her mother lived with her grandparents. Jo graduated high school in 1947, then went to Oberlin College. She met Joe (Joseph) Elder in her sophomore year. They were married August 4, 1951, and just celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary.
Jo and Joe sailed for Madurai, India in 1951, on a Shansi teaching fellowship from Oberlin. Their daughter Shonti was born in India.
The Elders had three children; Shonti married to Bill Frey, with daughter, Kluonie and son Devin and wife Lily; John married to Leslie Kennedy Elder with daughters Anna married to Rodrigo Canedo-Gattegno, and Linden married to Daniel Thayer, parents of great granddaughters Lyra and Rowan; and Ed married to Danny Ashkenasi.
Jo and Joe joined the Society of Friends in the late fifties, inspired by Friends’ peace testimony, and Friends’ belief in human equality. Jo and Joe were active opponents of the Vietnam War, indeed every war, and demonstrated against them all. Jo was awarded the Woman of Distinction in 1993, and belonged to many progressive social causes.
Thanks to having a gay son, Ed, Jo and Joe were early members (1980s) of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Jo Elder was elected to the Madison School Board in 1998, and introduced more awareness of LGBT issues in the schools.
She treasured her lifetime with husband Joe.