Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Frances Laidlaw Jonas

Long-time Wood River Valley resident Frances Laidlaw Jonas, 87, of Hailey, passed away at her home in Zinc Spur on Jan. 13, 2007, of natural causes. Frances' life and family tree represent a slice of valley history that dates back to the pioneer era.

Frances was born on Dec. 15, 1919, in Bellevue, the oldest of William and Thelma Laidlaw's four children. Thelma's folks, Peter and Mary Elizabeth Brown, arrived in Bellevue by horse-drawn wagon in 1885 from Utah. Peter joined his brothers—among the valley's original homesteaders—in several ventures that served the area's booming mining economy. He built Bellevue's first racetrack at a time, according to Mary Elizabeth, "that people came from all over to participate in the races and the betting was going good as everyone was working at this time and had money to bet with."

The Laidlaw brothers—Jim, John and William—arrived in the valley around 1910 from Scotland via Canada. They brought with them the family history of sheep husbandry and introduced the Suffolk breed to the West. Forest Service archives relate the Laidlaws as the first to graze sheep in the upper valley and over Galena Summit into Sawtooth Valley.

Frances attended grade school at the old Bellevue School. Of her grade school years, Frances spoke of horse-drawn sleighs and "it was an 'expedition' to travel up to Ketchum during the winter."€

When her folks established a ranch east of Carey Lake, Frances began secondary school in Carey, but finished in Boise, graduating from St. Theresa's Academy. She attended the Southern Branch of the University of Idaho at Pocatello. Summertime, she was a waitress for Union Pacific at its new Sun Valley Resort. During the resort's first years, she met her husband, Robert Jonas. They were married in 1941 at Bellevue's Catholic Church. After brief residences in Seattle and Juneau, Alaska, the couple returned to Ketchum in 1944. They purchased a little house on Garnet Street for $2,000, opposite what would become Warren's Motel (renamed Lift Tower Lodge).

Frances worked at Sun Valley's Dollar Cabin and its reservations office. At Dollar, she could look after the couple's two pre-schoolers, Bobby and Johnny, as they schussed around Dollar's ski slopes. Bob Sr. was a maitre d' at the Duchin Room and a carpenter. He was among the crew that built the Round House on Baldy. The boys remember Frances and her Garnet Street pals as a virtual knitting mill, designing and making all kinds of sweaters, sold to Sun Valley guests by local shops.

The couple moved to Boise in the late 1950s. In Boise, Frances finished her degree in education, teaching at Catholic schools. Later, she became a successful real estate agent. Frances and Bob built a retirement home at Zinc Spur in 1972 and returned to the valley permanently in 1980.

Bob Sr. passed in 1982. Thereafter, Frances dedicated herself to her gardening and sewing passion. Francis designed and sewed her clothing and often made clothes for children in the family. In her later years, Frances began to paint, a hobby she enjoyed until the end of her life.

Frances' gardens were always ablaze with the flowers of the season. She delighted in growing trees, too, planting numerous conifers wherever the couple resided. She called them her other children. Her Zinc Spur homes are surrounded by tall spruce, pine and fir. Frances' Johnny Appleseed tendency was picked-up by her husband Bob. The towering spruce that grace older, upper Valley residences including homes on the terrace above Sun Valley Lake, the Ernest Hemingway house and the former Garnet Street residence were planted by Frances, Bob Sr. and their boys.

Frances is remembered as a loving and caring mother and faithful friend. You could always drop-in on Frances and Bob, their door open to friend and stranger alike.

Frances was a member of St. Charles parish. She is survived by a sister, Ellen Dellos of Twin Falls; two sons, Bob Jonas of Ketchum and John Jonas of Zinc Spur and two grand-daughters, Nina Jonas of Ketchum and Amy Jonas of Hailey.

A memorial will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, at the Senior Center in Hailey. Interment is under the care of Wood River Chapel of Hailey.

Those desiring to make a donation in Frances' memory, please give to the Blaine County Senior Center, P.O. Box 28, Hailey, ID 83333 or Hospice of the Wood River Valley, PO Box 4320, Ketchum, ID 83340.

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