MARY JANE BUKOWY WHITESIDES
1939 ˜ 2021
Lifelong educator and volunteer to innumerable Vancouver organizations, Mary Jane (Joanie) Bukowy was born in 1939 in Freehold, NJ, the daughter of Polish immigrants and the youngest of three children. Joanie attended parochial school in Freehold, then Cathedral High and Rider College in Trenton, where she graduated in 1961 as an English Education major.
That summer, at the end of a tragic year that saw the death of both her parents, Joanie answered a call for teachers in Clark County and travelled by car with two girlfriends across the country to take a job as English teacher at La Center High School.
The next year she met Dale Whitesides, a young attorney with the Landerholm law firm in Vancouver. They were married June 1963 and she resigned her teaching position to manage the household and raise two boys. Incapable of limiting herself to the home, Joanie blended devotion to husband and children with community service, and became a dedicated volunteer for many of the organizations that involved her family, including PTAs, Cub Scouts, Columbia Little League and, above all, St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish. In 1980 she even served on the first Advisory Board to the Clark County Cable Commission.
When her children reached adolescence, Joanie decided to move back to professional work. After teaching art part-time at Gaiser Junior High and completing a Master’s in Special Education at Lewis & Clark, “Mrs. Whitesides” as she was now mostly known began a twenty-year stretch of 2nd and 3rd-grade instruction first at King and then at Felida Elementary. Combining her talents in art and drama to offer lively classrooms and curricula, Mrs. Whitesides was beloved by students, sought after by parents, and honored with several teaching awards from the Vancouver Public Schools before her retirement in 2008.
Her organizational commitments continued with St. Joseph’s and with the National Education Association, the GY/WA chapter of P.E.O. and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul until a cancer diagnosis in 2019 forced her to slow down.
She died at home May 31, and is survived by her two sons, Vance (with wife, Margaret) and Anthony; grandson, Issaya; a dozen nieces and nephews; her cat, Gus; and scores of friends and former students. Funeral services will be held at St. Joseph’s June 14, at 11 a.m.
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Published by The Columbian on Jun. 6, 2021.