The first time I met JoAnn Flynn was in 2017 as I was viewing her beautiful historic home turned salon on Washington Street for an investment. She had it on the market and Washington Street was one of my old stomping grounds. As the MAX whizzed by the front door of Moxie’s Salon a short woman opened the door and ushered me in. JoAnn invited me to take a look around the home. I was impressed with the neat 1920s bungalow and how she had adapted it as a vibrant hair salon with modern features for her clients to enjoy. We had a great visit and talked about the property and some history too. After our visit ended I could not get JoAnn out of my mind. Her energy was infectious, she just shined. The twinkle in her eye revealed something that day that I would not understand until this past week.
Four years in the rearview window from that day, I met JoAnn again. She had reached out to me to come and see a big pile of historic black and white photos that she has collected over the years, most from family and friends. A few days later I called to set up a meeting to come and see them. When I arrived I was welcomed in and given a stack of photos and a nice chair to settle into.
JoAnn brought me a big stack of old photos, some of them dating back to the 1800s. A family picking hops at the end of the 1800s caught my eye. Another features men on steel steam tractors with steel wheels on them harvesting hay and grain. And the photos just kept on coming in.
“A lot of these photos are from the Enschede side of the family. They had farms and relatives all over Scholls and Laurel,” said Flynn.
Most people have two branches of their family – but it turns out JoAnn’s definition of family is a very different one. As we sat and sifted through pictures she dove into her story. Let’s call it a Hillsboro story and it turns out it is a whopper. You see her life began not in a warm home with her Mom and Dad, but in the middle of the street in a basket in downtown Hillsboro.
The County Poor Farm was JoAnn’s Home as a child. It was torn down in 2001 when Lowe’s was built.
“I was only 1 and 1/2 years old, I was found in the middle of the street by the police. I was all alone and no one knew who I was or where I had come from,” she explained. ” That was about 1939. We found out later that my father took me by foot from Tualatin to Hillsboro looking for someone to help care for me as they could not. I was so malnourished that I could not be adopted or sent to a foster home, so I was put into the County Poor Farm where Lowes is now. I spent about a year there before I was placed in foster care.”
From there the story got better. JoAnn was taken in as a foster daughter by a Danish merchant marine and his wife in Cornelius. His name was Herman Jaenicke and with his wife Amelia, they provided a fine home for JoAnn and many fond memories. She spoke tenderly of them and the 2 acres they owned in Cornelius. She became their daughter and stayed with them until she came of age and was married. Herman and his wife were beloved locals and his life was celebrated by the Times paper a few years before his death.
Over the years her biological family. the Sims family, reconnected but never fully. She attended Cornelius School, HilHi, and upon graduation, she completed beauty school. It was not long before she began working in the Hillsboro community as a stylist, working for decades and becoming an active part of the community. She worked at Main Street Hair Company which became Mar Don Salon, and in the end, she owned and operated Moxies where our story began. Her entire life she has lived and worked here in greater Hillsboro, a town that was not her own, but one where the resources and good-hearted people existed to lift her up and above her troubled start.
JoAnn, seen here in her graduation photo.
She graduated from Hillsboro High School and was married twice, having children along the way like most people. And without going too much into depth, the family certainly had its share of struggles. Her spirit carried her along regardless of the challenges, and she worked her fingers to the bone. As we sat and poured over the old family photos and shared historical knowledge, I began to settle in and look around the living room. Let’s just say the well-lit space in her beautiful ranch-style home near Hare Field is “neatly cluttered.”
On one table was a stack of hand-knit blankets. On another, a crafting project. Across the room was a basket that had knit stocking caps in it. On the walls is a collection of beautiful art and drawings. As she told me more about her life and the black-and-white photos, I realized I needed to know more.
Color, art, fabric, a pot of fresh coffee. I took a deep breath and began to ask questions.
“Excuse me, JoAnn, a lot is happening here. Can you tell me about all of this?” I asked, pointing around the room.
“I knit blankets for those in need, I did about 100 this year,” she said without breaking stride.
“And those?” I followed pointing at the hats.
“Well, I have always made hats. For a long time, every baby born at the Tuality Hospital received one of my knit hats. I enjoy giving back to our community because it gave me everything!”
Two minutes later, I was holding 4 hats that she gave to me as a gift. These are not poorly made craft projects, but rather soft, perfectly proportioned beauties with exquisite stitching. We are not really hat people, being Norwegian, we like the ice and snow and rain, but as soon as I brought them home, the grandkids and my oldest son snatched them up and put them on.
My query then turned to her collection of art. On the floor, tucked behind an easy chair, was a pencil sketch from which two men were staring at me, each of them flanking a set of open human hands. The composition and details of the work spoke to a gifted talent.
“Where did you get that,” I asked. “That is beautiful.”
JoAnn replied, “Oh, that? That is one of mine.”
“One of yours?” I asked.
“Yes. All of the art here are things I have done. ”
Well, this led to an hour of walking and talking about each piece of art I saw. Watercolor, pencil sketches, oils, and on and on it went.
Racial struggle, the Helping Hands, and Age and homelessness are topics of this fantastic sketch by JoAnn
If this home looks familiar, it is because it sits on the corner of 5th and Washington near Joann’s Moxie’s Salon
This quaint art cabin sits in her backyard, and inside are untold numbers of projects yet to be completed.
This last one really got me. What were these ladies looking at? Could be the ocean. Could they be waiting for a long-lost love to return from the sea? Maybe it speaks of family and the need to belong to something, of waiting for that to happen; we all want that to happen for us deep down. This capped off for me the level of talent that this woman possesses.
There is a lot I can say about JoAnn now that I know her better. The one thing I can tell you is that she acts like she is just getting started- and yet time is against her. But that will not stop her. No, not until the last hat, the last blanket, the last piece of art is done, and the last hair styling is complete.
At the end of the tour, she showed me her home beauty salon, where she is still cutting hair one day a week. She is hoping for some plumbing to be installed so she can do even more. Who is this amazing talent, and how did she end up here in Hillsboro? That was a matter of luck for us, a chance for her, and a long walk from Tualatin.
Hillsboro is full of people like JoAnn if you just take the time to reach out, connect, and find out more about people. That visit I will never forget. She says she needed Hillsboro and is forever grateful. While I do see that, I also see how very much we all need her and people like her.
This story is dedicated to all of you and especially all the special people who give of themselves even when the chips are down. Here is to the people who do the real work and are less concerned about being on a “Best Of” list and more concerned about making a difference. Our City recognizes who it can, when it can, but does so filtered by whom the folks in power deem fit for the attention. Here is to all the JoAnns out there. The Herald is doing more of these human interest stories, and we want to hear from you!