Growing up on a farm for a portion of her young life, one of her duties was to collect the eggs that the chickens had laid the night before. She and her brother Sonny would race out to the old milk can every morning where they knew the chickens would lay them and try to collect the most eggs first.
After a few years of living on the farm, Joan and her family moved into a new home in the same town. They lived with Joan’s aunt, uncle, and cousin Patricia, because her father was only slightly in the picture. Her mother also suffered from depression and other mental health issues that restricted her ability to work, so they depended on her aunt and uncle for everything.
In second grade, Joan’s teacher had a special place in her heart for the young girl. One day, she came in with a big bag and handed it to Joan. Inside were three dresses and a doll. She knew Joan and her family had very little and she wanted to help. It meant so much that someone cared for her and she has never forgotten it after all these years.
When Joan was 13 she got her first job at a dance company. She taught lessons to younger dancers so she would have money to take more lessons. Soon after, she got a job at the "five and dime" so she would have money for other things she needed. Her parents couldn’t provide much. She even tried to make extra cash babysitting some of her cousins when she had the time.
At age 15, Joan was blessed with another sibling, a younger brother named Fred. However, considering her mother's condition, she was the one who would inevitably have to care for him and as she puts it, “pretty much took care of him for the biggest part of the rest of my life”.
While her other siblings were outside playing with the new family that had moved in a year prior, she was inside helping her mother care for a baby.
As time went on, Joan continued to care for him as if she were his second mother. If he was sick and had to come home from school, she left school and went to pick him up. If he needed help with homework, she would stop her own and make sure he understood what he was working on.
Despite working, caring for her siblings, and going to school, she was able to find a little time here and there for fun. This often meant reading, drawing, or playing different sports with the neighbors, the Jones family. They had 18 children, but most of them were older and moved out before Joan had ever known them.
The Jones family member she was closest with was Robert. He was five years older and the only member of his family to graduate high school.
When Joan was still only 15, and Robert was 20, he joined the Marine Corps. They wrote each other everyday because they had grown so close in the year that they were neighbors. As she says, “he didn’t pay much attention to me until I was about 17."
However, when Robert was sent overseas for a little over a year, they wrote to each other daily.
The year was 1958 when Robert returned and he asked Joan to marry him. They set the date for the August of the following year after she graduated high school. However, as the date approached, Robert was called back overseas, so they postponed the wedding one month. Although they married that September, they spent some of their first year of marriage apart because of Robert’s duties as a Marine. Robert returned home in time to welcome their first baby, Robin, and another year later he was discharged.
Following Robert’s permanent return home, the couple bought a “little yellow house on the corner” in Ewing, New Jersey where they went on to have two more children, Robert Jr. (called Todd) and Kierstin.
The family of five grew quickly and unexpectedly.
While Joan was pregnant with Kierstin, her sister died from hepatitis, leaving her four children with her husband. Overwhelmed, Joan’s brother-in-law left them with a woman he knew who had eight children of her own. The woman neglected and abused all of the children, including the eight she had herself.
Joan soon took charge, as she often had to do. She called the authorities and won custody of her nieces and nephews.
Their family doubled in the span of a year and again, just as she did when she was young, she took on a plethora of jobs to support them. "I didn't want all of the burden to be on my husband." In between working and caring for her family, she started taking nursing and cosmetology classes.
With most of the children (her own and her sister's) grown and out of the house, Joan's oldest daughter Robin had her first child. "He spent countless hours at the little yellow house on the corner playing outside with Todd and Kierstin, who happened to only be about seven years older than he was. He looked up to Todd as a father figure for most of his life because his own had left the picture when he was very young."
Joan cared for her grandson as if he were her own, as she did with all of her grandchildren to follow.
Over the years, countless members of the Jones family have lived in the famed and beloved yellow house on the corner.
Children, grandchildren, cousins, and friends all had the honor at some point to be under Joan's care. She welcomed everyone who walked through the door. "Even if they were undeserving, I would never turn on back on my family or the people I love."
To this day, Joan Jones still lives in her little yellow house on the corner, with her daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter, and whoever needs a place to stay for a few days. She was married to Robert for 58 years before he passed. His ashes sit prominently in the living room, surrounded by prayer cards and pictures in honor of his memory. As Joan will tell you herself, "my greatest accomplishment is my family."
We can all learn a lot from Joan Jones.