Mary Jane "Joanie" Whitesides
1939 - 2021

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.
Funeral service
St. Joseph’s
, WA
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5 Entries
Jason Molina and Lindsey Rick
June 14, 2021
Mrs. Whitesides, or Miss Bukowy as we knew her, was my high school English teacher for 2 years at our small high school in LaCenter, WA. This was her first teaching job and she did it well. She was a much beloved and respected teacher - a favorite of many of us. Our school was small, our graduating class of 1965 was only 39 strong, so we got to know our teachers very well as we had them several years in a row. Mrs. Whitesides was a dynamic and enthusiastic teacher who gave her all to helping us navigate the nuances of the English language. We often spoke of her at our reunions and tried to locate her over the years. My only regret that we were not able to reconnect with her as I wish I could have told her how important she was to me and my classmates. Thank you, Miss Bukowy, for your inspiration and dedication!
Edna (Doolittle) Nash
June 8, 2021
Aunt Joanie, You will be greatly missed by all. As I write this so many memories come flooding back.
Bridget Bukowy Daniels
June 8, 2021
Mrs. Whitesides was responsible for my 3rd grade education, and was also responsible for unknowingly planting the seed in my mind to become a teacher myself. As the years grow more distant in my mind, memories fade--but an ample collection of memories from my 3rd grade year shine brilliantly. With great nostalgia, I recall standing outside of Felida Elementary School along a brick wall waiting for the classroom door to swing open--Mrs. Whitesides' hand clasping the door handle as she sang "Good morning, good mooooorning!" (a common practice of hers was to greet the students with happy show tunes each morning). I often reflect in astonishment at the fact that this woman managed to trick a bunch of snotty 10 year olds into learning sign language alongside all of the other pedagogical responsibilities of the year. I reflect on how she would read us stories with the performative acuity of a professional actor, lead me in reestablishing a loving relationship with mathematics, waltz into the classroom dressed as Gandalf (we were reading "The Hobbit")--and perhaps most importantly--how she managed to make school enjoyable again (I began to resent school as early as 1st grade). With her and a select few other teachers in mind, I plowed my way through Vancouver Public Schools and the University of Washington to attain my master's degree in teaching by the age of 21. That same year, I landed a job teaching high school. About a year and a half ago, I decided to call Vancouver Public Schools with the hope that they could set me up with Mrs. Whitesides' contact information. After getting the "go-ahead" from Mrs. Whitesides, they relinquished her number to me. Within minutes, I was sitting in my school's cafeteria chatting it up on the phone with one of my living inspirations. I proudly explained to her that a laminated tyrannosaurus rex I had won in one of her classroom spelling bees still hangs on the wall in my office, that she directly inspired me to pursue a teaching career, and that I was so happy to tell her all of this. Throughout the conversation, I tried to sound as calm and professional as possible, but I know that I had likely regressed into a bumbling 3rd grader once again. No matter how old we get, these profound giants of our past never seem to diminish in stature. To this day, I am so grateful to have gotten in touch with her again. While it breaks my heart to see that she has left this world, I can rest easy knowing that she was aware of the impact she had on me--and that a part of her will live within my spirit (especially in the classroom) until the end of my days. I am so lucky to have been the student of such an incredible person. To call myself a former student of hers is truly an honor and a privilege, as I am sure countless others would say if asked.
Joe Querin
June 6, 2021
Joanie was a beloved neighbor and great friend to all. She befriended my mother Arlene Clark and Nancy Dresher and the three would become lifelong neighbors and friends . Joanie will continue to be part of our lives as we have many wonderful memories with her. For me she will be remembered as mom to Chip and TW( Tony) and dog mom to Shadrach her beloved poodle . I will forever remember her years as a rosarian and the umbrella in her wonderfully landscaped yard on the steepest driveway in the neighborhood. I will remember her walks along Riverside Drive and her deep Catholic faith . You will be missed❣
Debbie Biondo
June 6, 2021
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