Homeless Memorials

Jonna was one of the first residents at the Union Hotel, subsidized apartments managed by the Downtown Emergency Service Center, moving in from the homeless shelter Noel House in July 1994. There are forty other residents at the Union, including Wes and I. Her death has stricken everyone. She was a warm, sweet person, and no one expected this.

The most stricken of us here is Carl. He and Jonna were sweethearts since he moved into the Union two years ago. They were planning to be married next Valentine's Day.

I met Jonna at StreetLife Gallery in 1995. She had been there since 1994, discovering the Gallery while she stayed at Noel House. Jonna was one of the featured artists in the StreetLife Gallery book (out of print.)

Jonna's table display at StreetLife Gallery
Jonna had created a "found art" table display of popular culture, starring Jimi Hendrix. In the book, she says, "I moved to Seattle from Los Angeles one year ago [1993] to be near Jimi Hendrix's family. Jimi and I are writing a book about what it's like to be dead, tentatively titled The Bad Book." When I moved into the Union Hotel in January 1996, I found Jonna was one of my neighbors here. Every time I saw here for the next several years she was holding a picture of Jimi Hendrix.

There is an old word that I wish was still current: "fey." It describes something, or someone, that is a little wild and strange and not-quite-of-this-world. That was how I saw Jonna. I didn't think of her by the same rules of reality that I thought of other people. I could believe that she was writing a book with Jimi Hendrix. I just wish I could have read it.

Jonna and Carl,
in Jonna's apartment
Jonna and Carl
Jonna let go of the picture when she met Carl. She bloomed, and so did he. "She changed my life, I did things I thought I'd never do. I got straight. I got a checking account. I don't know what I'll do without her. But Jonna believed. She told me she would always be with me."

Last year (2001) Jonna got a computer, and I got to help her figure out how to use AOL. She insisted on paying me for the lessons. We were both on a very limited income: at that time I was still on state disability, and Jonna was on Social Security.

That was like Jonna, generous at all times.

Claudia Boles, who was also at StreetLife Gallery, and now lives at the Union, since June 1994, says: "Over the years, we became like sisters. I was so broken up, I had to leave the memorial service. She always wanted me to teach her to draw bamboo, but we never got to it. She loved all kinds of art. She read tons of art books. She liked Deep Purple and the heavy metal bands, heavier than I had. She'd get mad at me because I didn't have any of the music she liked."

Claudia, Carl and Jonna were all on a trip to Snoqualmie Falls shortly before Jonna's death. This picture of Jonna captures her joy, for us to remember her by.

Jonna at Snoqualmie Falls
Jonna at Snoqualmie Falls

— memorial by Anitra Freeman, December 12, 2002

A poem for Jonna, by Claudia Boles