Joan Vonnie Eichelberger, better known as Vonnie, after five years of declining health, transitioned quietly to the other side on her terms with dignity and grace Wednesday, September 30, 2020, at the home of her daughter, Sharla Hicks, in Anaheim, CA. (aka Vonnie Conn, maiden name Jones)
Vonnie was born 85 years ago in Gooding, Idaho, on July 14, 1935, Bastille Day. She shared the date with her nephew, Lonnie. They often joked together that “That all of France celebrated their birthday.”
She was the last of her generation to pass. Preceding her in death were her daughter Linda Malone in May 2018, her parents, Robert Jakie Jones, and Mabel Sylvira Bateman, and siblings: an Infant Daughter Jones, Iris Laree Jones, Wenonah Hoffman, Wanda Biggerstaff, Wade Jones, Marlon Jones, and Marcine Kae Cruz.
Vonnie’s earliest childhood memories were growing up on a Shoshone homestead during WWII. After the war, the family purchased a farm in Jerome and moved into town. Wade, her brother, and pets were her companions. Being the youngest and closest in age to the next generation, she became a favorite Auntie. Her nieces and nephews were more than family; they were also friends.
Vonnie was a very industrious, hardworking woman who held many jobs to provide for her family. She worked at JC Penny, Kimberly Nursery, chiropractor and veterinary offices, Mrs. Powells, Bakker Brothers, Twin Falls Clinic, Magic Valley Hospital, and retired from Saint Luke’s Hospital.
As a young mother of limited means, each year, she nurtured a flourishing garden, flower beds, and raised chickens, cows, and pigs to feed her family. For extra cash, she hoed beets and beans and would harvest potatoes from the end of the rows. She was very proud that her family was well fed. When the youngest daughter, Michelle, went to school, Vonnie worked at JC Penny for ten years to make sure her girls were well dressed.
Vonnie’s courage and strength during the good and bad times came from her belief in God and eternal life. She was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She taught Sunday School and Primary, was a Primary President, Seminary teacher, and Visiting Teacher. Scriptures were part of her daily routine. She loved to sing in the ward choir and was a member of the Sweet Adelines for several years.
Vonnie’s greatest treasures were her family. Her first marriage was to Don Conn; they raised four cherished daughters: Sharla, Linda (deceased), Donette, and Michelle. They moved a lot in those early years between Jerome, Idaho, Washington DC, Connellsville area in Pennsylvania, and back to Jerome and Twin Falls, a brief stint in Portland, Oregon, and back to Twin Falls. Her second marriage to Bill Eichelberger included the birth of her son, Andrew Eichelberger, and moves to Boise and Eagle, Idaho.
She raised Andrew on her own, holding down multiple jobs to buy a small home in Jerome, Idaho, providing a nurturing, stable home for him. His choice to become a 21-year veteran of the Marine Corps was a source of great pride.
As the matriarch of the family, Vonnie often expressed her love, gratitude, and satisfaction for the opportunity to raise 5 children who gave her 14 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, 2 great-great-grandchildren. Vonnie was at her happiest when family and friends gathered at her home in Jerome to celebrate, visit, and, if needed, offered them a place to live. A kind-generous heart, a beautiful smile, a big bear hug, and a witty sense of humor always greeted her guests.
Vonnie never met a stranger, and when she made a friend, it was for life, offering fierce loyalty and love.
Going to Sharla and Michelle’s cabins to celebrate birthday week, commune with nature, and rest was a favorite pastime. She enjoyed exercise, and nothing was better than a good walk or bike ride with family and friends.
Education was very important to her. Learning was at the center of all she did by continually reading, adding new words to her vocabulary, and journal writing. She enjoyed traveling to expand her horizons and visited Alaska, Hawaii, the Caribean, Mexico, and enjoyed travel around the United States. Even in her declining years, travel, word search, and journaling were favorite pastimes. This last year she even connected with her artistic side doing beautiful, well-done coloring book pages.
In her declining years, her joys were phone calls from loved ones and friends, the pop sound of a Pepsi can opening and poured over ice, receiving cards and packages, and a ride in the car where she would exclaim, “Look, isn’t that beautiful,” as we passed a flowering tree or plant. Anyone in a car with her needed their head on a swivel as each new vista brought more joys to share.
Sadly, with Vonnie’s passing, a shining light that reflected a life well-lived has left this world. She will be missed by her family and all who knew and loved her.
Graveside Service, Masks required. Bring your own chair, if possible.
Shelley Hillcrest Cemetery, aka Shelley Cemetery
Saturday, October 10, 2020
1122-1152 East 800 North (Baseline Road)
Shelley, ID 83274
Joan Vonnie Eichelberger’s legacy:
Sharla (Ern Hicks) - Traci Adams, Adam Hicks, Ruel Hicks
Linda Malone (deceased) -Jennifer Garcia, Josh Malone
Donette (Dennis Black) - Mike Anderson, Cody Anderson, Carol Jean Johnson
Michelle (Eric Buckeye) - Sheilagh Craner, Melissa Lantz, Casey Jones
Andrew Eichelberger (Samantha) - Brandon, Tyler, Evelyn
Great-grandchildren: Rebecca Hicks, Tiffini Hicks, Savanah Hicks, Madeline Adams, Justice Garcia, Kai Garcia, Kier Garcia, Bensen Malone, Otis Malone, Sierra Kisler, Devan Anderson, Colton Anderson, Payton Spanbauer, Paige Spanbauer, Kaysen Johnson, Merinda Craner, Eric Craner, Olivia Lantz
Great-great grandchildren: Ella McDonnell, Selvoy Waters