Surprise luncheon for Judge JoAnn Jones’ 80th birthday

By Ardith Van Riper

     Friday, January 3, 2020, the Tribal Courts staff organized a surprise luncheon in celebration of Judge JoAnn Jones’ 80th birthday.  The multi-purpose room at the District 1 Community Center was bursting with people, favorite foods of the Judge, and vibrant decorations.

     The staff was able to surprise Judge Jones under the guise that the clerks were having a staff meeting at D1CC.  All the while, they were preparing dishes and making the room festive.

     A roaring, “Surprise!” greeted Judge Jones as she walked through the streamers adorning the entryway.  Laughter filled the room before the crowd broke out in a happy birthday song.  Hugs were shared before Pete Camacho said a prayer over the meal.

     Guests visited and shared stories while enjoying lunch.

     JoAnn Jones was born at the Tomah Indian Hospital in 1940 and raised in the Indian Mission near Black River Falls.  She attended an Indian Boarding school and graduated from Alma Center High School.  She later joined the Air Force.

     Jones returned to Wisconsin in 1979.  She completed a bachelor’s degree in social work and political science, a master’s degree in social work, and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. 

     After graduation from law school, Jones became an Assistant Corporation Counsel for Sauk County in Baraboo.  She served in this position until being elected the first woman to hold the office of Tribal Chairperson of the Ho-Chunk Nation.  The Ho-Chunk Nation experienced turbulent changes at the time.

     When guests nearly finished their lunches, Judge Mary Jo B. Hunter cut and distributed the birthday cake.  Richard Mann was the emcee.  Health Littlejohn read the birthday cards and displayed the gifts Judge Jones received and opened.

     “I was so surprised, I’ve never been surprised like this.  I could almost cry, but I don’t want to.  I want to remember the happiness.” said JoAnn Jones. 

     She went on to say, “Thank you for this.  I will remember my 80th birthday, and I’ll make it to 100 like my dad did.”

     Judge Jones’ birthday is January 5.