Joanne De Jonge’s first Banner article, “Mooncakes and Motorcycles,” appeared in the August 16, 1968 issue. Her final one, “Stargazing,” appeared this week.
“When I sent in my very last Banner article I did a little counting,” said De Jonge. “The total, after the December article, is 1,048.”
De Jonge was 24 years old when she returned home in 1968 after a two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malaysia. Her aunt, Gertrude Haan, who was an associate editor of The Banner, asked her to write an article. And so began De Jonge’s long writing career.
Something else began then too. “Wayne [De Jonge] was staff artist. My picture crossed his desk. He asked Aunt Gertrude about me, then called for a date. We married in 1969.”
By 1975, De Jonge was writing regularly. She wrote “The Young Look” (later called “Just for Kids”) from 1976-1999. “It was great fun. This all started before the days of Internet. I spent summers among the stacks at the Grand Rapids Public Library looking up information, then typing the articles with a typewriter on onionskin paper.” In 1999, after writing a total of 1,000 articles, De Jonge decided to quit “while I was still having fun.” Called back to The Banner in 2005, she agreed to write four columns a year.
For 25 of those years at The Banner, De Jonge taught full-time at Christian schools all over Grand Rapids, Mich., as an orchestra director. However, her passion for writing about God’s creation and giving talks about it led her to get a masters degree in science education. With that in hand, she became a National Park ranger and worked for 20 summers at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, which stretches along the shore of Lake Michigan. “Wayne and I were both really blessed by this turn of events in our lives.” She remains a sought-after speaker.
“Writing for The Banner changed my life,” said De Jonge. “I think I’ve written about 16 from-scratch books, and there are four collections of Banner articles out there. This, in my mind, was practice for writing the Zondervan Kids’ Devotional Bible. Doing those devotions was truly a blessed experience.”
De Jonge said, “If you want to hear God laugh, make a plan! I had planned to teach stringed instruments in Grand Rapids for most of my working life. God had a much better plan.”
The De Jonges currently live full-time in Arizona, where they worship at West Valley Christian Fellowship. They plan to return to Grand Rapids for at least part of each year.