The clear plastic craft drawers right in front of the desk were an obvious giveaway. There were art pieces, as promised: coloring projects, hung with tape, gifted to her by children who come to the library to participate in JoAnna’s programs.

“Here is some art she could never part with,” said Alaina Terry, Kuna library programs specialist. “Kids loved her. They each felt like they were her favorite.”

JoAnna was also known as “library lady,” “Cinderella,” “The Cat in the Hat,” “Super Penelope,” and many other names before she died. Super Penelope is particularly memorable. Adorned with a mask and cape, JoAnna would ride around the library parking lot on a scooter that was left in the lost and found.

Super Penelope was a character created for the Summer Reading Program. The theme that year was that every hero had a story.

“She had a way of getting people excited about the library,” Terry said.

“I’d hear children say, ‘Miss Jo said come,’” added Jana Cutforth, co-director of the library.

They came. They came for Mini Monets, where they painted with tools like string, forks, eggshells and bubble wrap. I wanted to try making one too.

They came to exercise, dance or just move in the Music and Movement program.

They came for after school activities, movie nights and other programs.

“She just dove into everything,” Cutforth said. “That’s what makes it so hard. There’s a huge hole here we don’t know how to fill.”

JoAnna loved her job, and, like her desk, was very involved in it, but those were not always her central focus.

Her husband Jake is there, at the center, where JoAnna could look down from her screen, below her keyboard and see them on their wedding day.

JoAnna’s family said Jake fulfilled lots of JoAnna’s dreams and one was becoming his wife and marrying her in one of her favorite temples.

“JoAnna and Jake loved being able to go and do whatever they wanted,” JoAnna’s family wrote. “They loved to try new restaurants, go to movies, and hang out with family and friends. Jake has been the best and was always by her side through the ups and downs. He supported her in all of her wild and crazy identities.”

Sitting at her desk, JoAnna was surrounded by smiling nieces and nephews.

JoAnna’s longtime dream was to become a mom, JoAnna’s family wrote, and even in her short time here on earth, she was a mom to her nieces and nephews and every kid she came in contact with at the library. She would go home with stories about what her kids did that day.

“Once the nieces and nephews started coming into play, she was and until the end still was the biggest sucker for them,” the family wrote. “Each one of them were her babies and she had a bond with them that no one else had.”

It’s a little eerie to see a lot of yourself in someone else. From age to marital status, from aunt to avid reader, stories of JoAnna have inspired me to be mindful of the wife, aunt, coworker, and overall person I am, and want to be.

Thank you, JoAnna, for the smiles, the joy, and who you were.

Alx George is the reporter for Kuna Melba News. Contact her at 208-922-3008 or


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