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June 1, 1916 – Sept. 7, 2013

Josephine Williams Ross, of Edgewater, Md., a Buffalo native who pursued a writing career and became a public relations assistant in the Kennedy White House, died Saturday in an Annapolis, Md., nursing home after a short illness. She was 97.

The former Josephine Willard, known to all as Jo, was a graduate of Williamsville High School and studied art at the Albright Art Gallery under artist Edgar Kowalski.

She worked as a sales clerk in the exclusive Jenny Shop in the late 1930s and wrote television commercials for an advertising agency here from 1948 to 1952.

Living in Houston in the 1950s, she was a writer for the Houston Post and TV Guide in Houston. She joined the Washington Post as a staff writer in 1960.

In her newspaper jobs and at the White House, she met Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson and many of the era’s newsmakers and celebrities.

After covering the Vietnam War as a freelance reporter, she returned to live in Edgewater, where she worked as a travel agent and traveled extensively. She retired in 1981.

An oil painter, with Kowalski’s encouragement she specialized in portraits of dogs and was very active in dog show circles. She was a member of the Kennel Club of Buffalo and was a founder of the Great Dane Club of Western New York.

In Edgewater, she was a volunteer swim instructor for the Special Olympics, a tourist aide at the Annapolis Visitors Center and a writing coach at the Senior Citizens Center.

Her first marriage, to William G. Williams, a Buffalo-area bandleader, ended in divorce. Twice remarried, she was the widow of her second husband, Walter Ferguson, and her third husband, Rennie Ross.

Survivors include two daughters, Lynn Williams Haggerty and Donna Williams Oscanyon; and a son, Grey.

Services will be private.