Jo Anne Anderson (née Jo Anne Russell) was born February 11, 1922, the fourth of six children. Her parents, Joe and Thurza Boies Russell, lived on the East River outside Corvallis and operated Russell’s Hatchery, one of the area’s largest employers during the Depression. Jo Anne and her siblings grew up riding horses, swimming, and helping to hatch and ship thousands of baby chicks country-wide. Jo Anne was a strong swimmer, working as a water safety instructor for Oregon State College and at Red Cross summer camps. She graduated from Corvallis High School in 1939. When she entered Oregon State College that fall, she was reported to be the only person to achieve a perfect score on the English entrance exam by the campus newspaper.
Swimming with the Oregon State Aquabots, a synchronized swimming team, brought her to the attention of another college student, Charles L. “Lloyd” Anderson, who was a member of the Hell Divers team. They enjoyed a friendship until she transferred to the University of Washington in 1941 and Lloyd, an ROTC student, was sent to Edgewood Arsenal for flight training at the start of the war. Lloyd was subsequently assigned as a B-17 pilot with the 43rd Bomb Group in New Guinea.
After a long-distance courtship, Lloyd and Jo Anne were married. Lloyd was transferred to Smyrna, Tennessee, and Jo Anne joined him there. Lloyd was soon reassigned to Rapid City, South Dakota, and B-17 training. The couple’s first son, Joseph, was born in Rapid City in 1944. Lloyd served as an instructor in South Dakota and in Montana before being transferred to Maine. Lloyd and Jo Anne enjoyed traveling and saw quite a bit of the country while driving between assignments.
In November of 1945, the Andersons returned to Corvallis and bought the old Gragg Farm at the corner of Highland and Crescent Valley Drive. They settled into life as farmers, raising 7,000 chickens for egg production in addition to cows, sheep, and hogs. Five children were born over the next nine years: Karen in 1945, Eric in 1947, Pete in 1950, Phil in 1952, and Ole in 1954.
When Ole was just four months old, Jo Anne contracted polio. After two months in the hospital, she returned home to begin the long process of learning to function effectively—and raise six children—from a wheelchair. But Jo Anne didn’t let polio slow her down for long. In 1959, she was named “Polio Mother of the Year” for the state of Oregon. She was often seen behind the wheel of the family’s black-and-white station wagon, delivering eggs they raised on the farm.
In 1961, Lloyd was elected as Tax Assessor for Benton County, a position he held for twenty-four years. With the full-time employment, Lloyd and Jo Anne relied less and less on the farm. When their children were all in school, Jo Anne decided to return to college to complete her sociology degree. She needed only a few credits, but enjoyed taking courses at Oregon State University, where her daughter and son attended school. In 1966, Jo Anne graduated with honors—and with Joe and Karen graduating beside her.
After graduation, Jo Anne became very involved in politics, serving at one time as chair of the Democratic Central Committee. The Andersons began their lifelong support of Democratic candidates and causes, with Jo Anne always campaigning vigorously on behalf of others. In 1972, Jo Anne was encouraged to run for state representative.
Her political activism extended to a number of causes in which she fervently believed. She was active in the NAACP and was a supporter of NARAL, a pro-choice organization devoted to women’s rights. She was a member of the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, Valley Aids Information Network, Responsible Mothers and Others, Access Benton County, The Farmers Union, Junior Town Club, OSU Alumni Association, Beaver Club, and League of Women Voters. She worked for Benton County in both the Department of Parole and Probation and the Alcohol and Drug program. When Lloyd retired in 1984, Jo Anne followed suit—but not for long. In 1986, she became one of nine founding members of Milestones Family Recovery Program. Daughter Karen had returned to graduate school and had prepared a paper on the need for alcohol and drug residential treatment centers. Jo Anne, Karen, and others worked without pay for the first eight months to get Milestones off the ground. After Jo Anne retired once again, she remained an active board member until she died.
Lloyd and Jo Anne shared a love of sports, keeping season tickets on the main floor for OSU Beaver basketball games for over thirty years. Beginning with their days in the Air Force, Jo Anne’s love of travel was fulfilled many times over the years. One of their first major trips took them to China to visit Ole, who was teaching computer science at Beijing University. Their travels led them to New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, the Caribbean, Bahamas, Hawaii (where they purchased a time share), Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, England, the Philippines, Africa, and all across Canada and the United States. In Africa, they traveled to Lamu, an island east of Kenya where everything was inaccessible. “Whatever the hardship,” her daughter Karen recalled, “she was just delighted to see the sights. There was nothing she did not approach with vigor and enthusiasm. There was no air conditioning, no water, but nothing bothered her. People were amazed.”
Jo Anne died while on a trip to Punta Arenas, Chile, on March 20, 1999. Several friends and family members contributed to a memorial fund in her honor to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Corvallis. “She’d always been very interested in organizations that got kids going down the right path and had begun donating to the club,” Lloyd said. “She believed in prevention, having seen the results when people got headed down the wrong path.”
Lloyd died at his home on February 17th, 2010.