Joan Webber Orso was born in Wilmington, DE to Benjamin and Mildred Webber on November 2, 1932. Joan attended college at the University of Maryland and earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the College of Home Economics. She was married to Lowell D. Rau and lived in Ellicott City, MD where she had two children, Sue Handy and Michael Rau. From the 1950’s through the late 1970’s, Joan was a member of Salem Lutheran Church in Catonsville, MD and was involved in numerous volunteer activities, including serving as a Children’s Sunday School teacher. She started a preschool program at the church to support local families which developed into a thriving Head Start program.
Joan worked in the Maryland Lutheran Synod office in the 1970’s where she met the Reverend Dr. Paul M. Orso. They were married in 1982 and were members of Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, Severna Park, MD. Joan worked as the Director of Christian Education at Our Shephard Church and St. Martin’s Lutheran Church, Annapolis, MD. After Paul’s death in 2003, Joan established a scholarship fund for Gettysburg Seminary seminarians. Joan enjoyed visiting the campus meeting with and getting to know each scholarship recipient. Joan also served as a member of the Seminary President’s Cabinet.
Joan loved to travel, she appreciated the arts, and was deeply devoted to the Mar-Lu-Ridge Camp and Retreat Center where she served as a volunteer camp counselor and Christian Education advisor/member. She developed many deep relationships throughout her years of volunteer work with the camp and she enjoyed the serene nature setting of the campus.
As a life-long Christian educator and wife of a Lutheran Bishop, Joan has been an integral part of numerous communities. Joan and Paul moved to Augsburg Lutheran Village in 2002 where they formed strong community ties which continued until her passing on April 2, 2022. Joan was a very active community member at Augsburg and worked with the Women’s Auxiliary, raising over $10 million to transform the Augsburg nursing home. She represented her fellow residents as a member of the Board of Directors. Joan co-chaired the Capital Campaign which raised funds for the new worship center. She was deeply involved in the design of the new worship center, including the stained-glass windows. She regularly visited residents in the Assisted Living wing and Nursing Home to share her warm smile, a hug, and words of encouragement.
Joan is survived by her two children, five grandchildren (Matt, Tim, Bethany, Steve, and Brian) two great grandchildren, brother Irving Webber, step-son (Donald Orso), step-daughter (Carolyn Bertelsmeyer), their children and grandchildren. Joan was deeply devoted to her family, giving generously through her presence, smiles, and hugs. She spent one day each week caring for her grandchildren from birth through high school, including many “sleep-overs” which were always much anticipated events filled with laughter and good memories. The Augsburg residents were frequently greeted by Joan and her grandsons’ remote-control cars passing through the hallways.
There will be a Celebration of Life for Joan at the Augsburg Chapel on June 11, 2022 at 11:00 am. Memorial donations may be made to the following places that were very dear to Joan’s heart:
- United Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg: Development Office, Paul and Joan Orso Scholarship Fund, 61 Seminary Ridge, Gettysburg, PA 17325
- Mar-Lu-Ridge Camp and Retreat Center, 3200 Mar Lu Ridge Rd., Jefferson, MD 21755