Don Lintzen and wife JoAnn were big fans of Johnny Mathis and always said if he ever came to Baton Rouge for a concert they’d be there. Shortly after JoAnn passed away in November, Don Lintzen saw an ad in The Advocate that the singer known for his romantic ballads would be appearing here on Valentine’s night.
“Well, I knew I wasn’t going alone, and I wasn’t going to bring a date, but I thought maybe I could I bring a bunch of dates,” says Lintzen.
He invited the neighbors and former coworkers of his wife who went above and beyond during her almost six-year battle with melanoma and asked them to join him for one very special evening at the Baton Rouge River Center Theatre for the Baton Rouge Symphony’s Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation Great Performers in Concert sold-out show.
“There are 19 of us going — nine couples, two women and myself,” says Lintzen, who purchased the tickets not only as a thank you but as a way to celebrate the memory of his late wife. “We are going to Mass, then to dinner and then on to the concert.”
It’s sure to be a night of mixed emotions for them all, especially Lintzen, who still tears up as he talks about his Jo.
“We were the guys on the block who did a lot of entertaining,” he recalls. “We have a party in early December with about 85 people. Even when she didn’t feel up to it, she wouldn’t deny me the pleasure of hosting this annual party.”
One year he and some of his guy buddies decided to play a trick on their wives by making them think they had no plans for Valentine’s. “We surprised them with dinner, flowers, gifts,” he says with a chuckle.
Married for almost 25 years, Lintzen has lots of memories to help sustain him through his grief. He also has the love and support of family and friends; the same love and support that sustained JoAnn during her fight.
She was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2009 and stayed fairly healthy until the past year when current chemotherapy options no longer worked.
The couple went to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, but there were no clinical trials she could participate in because of another pre-existing health condition. A new chemotherapy was waiting on FDA approval.
Finally the drug was OK’d and JoAnn Lintzen started treatment in early October. She had three different treatments at three-week intervals, but on Nov. 22, rundown and in tremendous pain she went to the hospital. Five days later, she died.
“Dozens and dozens of friends came to visit her those last five days,” says an emotional Lintzen. “Had she been able to get the medicine six months earlier, she would have lived to fight again. It just wasn’t meant to be.”