Josephine Elizabeth Hecker was born January 20, 1929 in Washington, D.C. to Charles and Minnie Murgia. She was the second of 5 children. Her big brother Charles, little sisters Mary and Margaret were close knit. Michael , the baby, was a late addition. Her family weathered the depression, but did not imprint on the troubled times, they made due and never went hungry.
As a teen, Josephine worked as a clerk and bookkeeper for a department store. She and her best friend, Margie would go out together to dance with the many servicemen in the area, and that is how she met Kenneth Hecker. Kenny was a dashing “older man” of 23, who had been in WWII, a sailor in the D-Day invasion. He swept her oﬀ her feet and they married days after she turned 18. Josephine and Kenneth lived near her parents in D.C. until Ken got out of the Navy, then they moved near his parents in Wisconsin.
Josephine and Kenneth raised 4 children; James Kenneth, Patricia Ann, Carrie Therese Irdine, and Christopher David, who followed later, after the family had returned south to Virginia. Josephine learned to be a good homemaker, was a 4-H leader and a member of the Catholic Church. Later, she returned to bookkeeping, and helped to support her growing family.
After 24 years of marriage, Josephine and Kenneth divorced. In the aftermath of this, Josephine supported the younger kids by working as a real estate agent, eventually becoming a licensed broker. She got her pilots license. She attended college classes. Josephine showed a strong independent streak and learned to survive on her own terms. She was married, brieﬂy, to Lawrence Stippich, then some years later, she married Carl Berntson. The marriages did not succeed and she continued to take care of herself and her family, working as a cashier at Giant Food until Christopher was out of High School. She then became his military dependent and moved with him to Okinawa, Japan. She traveled extensively and enjoyed shopping excursions to Hong Kong and visiting her new in-laws, Christopher’s wife’s family in the Philippines. When it was time to return to the states, she settled in Florida, buying a home in the Tampa suburb of Brandon, where she lived over 20 years. Not content in retirement, she took up legal secretary work at the oﬃce of William McAnnally. She enjoyed the challenge of learning the complexity of the legal system. She was in her late sixties. Eventually, her older brother Charles introduced her to one of his Elks brothers, a recently widowed Ted Paskevich.
Ted and Josephine never married, but they would spend almost 2 decades together as companions and housemates. Josephine thrived in Florida and continued to travel, even after she was diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Lung CA. Daughters Carrie and Trisha took her to see her ancestral home in Italy. They visited the Vatican, saw the Pope, and went to the village where her dad was born, in Villa Rosa, Sicily. Ever a green thumb, Josephine brought home an olive seed from Sicily and planted it in her back yard in Florida. By the time she moved some years later, that seed was a tree over 15 feet tall! In 2015, she decided it was time to pull up stakes, sold her home and moved to Porterville, California with the help of her daughter, Carrie. She was loved and admired by many. She made friends at Optimal Hospice, her caregivers, Jose and Delphina especially. She was also known to many of Carrie’s Sierra View Medical Center work family and in January 2019, Josephine celebrated her 90th birthday with a big party at the Oak Pit Steakhouse, with family and friends from near and far joining her and Ted to toast her health and longevity.
Josephine and Ted resided at Sierra Hills Retirement community, living independently until Ted required more intensive nursing care and moved out in October 2019. Up until 1 week before her death, she continued to enjoy her cats and her family, having a wonderful Thanksgiving and a fun trip to Wine Country in Paso Robles, where she partied and enjoyed the lights of A Vine Street Christmas. Josephine was a hoot. She loved being the center of attention and having a good laugh.
Around Christmas, a cold became pneumonia, and led to several strokes. She remained lucid for several days under the care of her daughter, Carrie, a nurse, and was able to talk to her children and stay home with her cats until around New Year’s, when she passed peacefully the morning of January 2, 2020.
Josephine is survived by her older brother, Charles, sister, Margaret, her children James (Gobind), Trisha Hughes(JR), Carrie(Blake Dieters), and Christopher(Julie) she has eight grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. She loved her Yorkie, Edgar, her rescued kitties, and baby goats. She was stubborn, opinionated and a warm and ﬁercely loving friend and mother. She was, as her Dr. Owen Kim recalls “ a woman ahead of her time”. She is at peace.
Josephine will be interred at the Loveland Burial Park , Loveland, CO. Donations in lieu of ﬂowers may be made to the American Cancer Society or the Moﬃtt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL.