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Devotion to family, art marked sculptor’s life

Thu., Dec. 16, 2010

Longtime NIC instructor Joe Jonas dies at age 74

A longtime North Idaho College art instructor and sculptor whose work adorns the Coeur d’Alene campus along with buildings in Spokane and Hayden, died last week at age 74.

A celebration of Joe Jonas’ life will be held on the community college campus today at 3 p.m.

“He encompassed a wonderful blend of three really important things in a very balanced way: He was devoted to his family, he was devoted to his art and he was devoted to teaching,” said Allie Vogt, a longtime NIC art instructor who began working at the college a few years after Jonas.

Vogt remembers the Christmas cards Jonas would draw in pen and ink, showing scenes from his family’s life that year. In one, his son was a baby. In another, his children were learning to drive. In another they were traveling abroad. The cards always included a Christmas theme, she said.

“He was just so thoughtful and made time for those kinds of things,” Vogt said. “His cards reveal his love for his family and his art at the same time.”

Jonas began teaching at NIC in 1976 and founded the Commercial Art Program there a year later. Health problems forced him to retire in 1998. He may be best known for the seven large copper sculptures of athletic figures mounted on NIC’s Christianson Gymnasium, completed in the late 1970s.

Jonas also created copper sculptures inside and outside of Boswell Hall and in the lobby of Molstead Library. In that space, Jonas created five giant bronze panels depicting the history of the region, called “Yesterday’s Memories, Tomorrow’s Vision.” It includes scenes of miners, Native Americans, people playing on the beach, homesteaders and soldiers riding on horseback through Fort Sherman’s gate.

Jonas’ artwork also can be found at Shriner’s Hospital in Spokane, the entrance to the Coeur d’Alene Resort and the Hayden Lake Country Club, where one sculpture shows early 20th century golfers and the electric train that carried them to Hayden Lake.

Vogt said Jonas was multifaceted, also teaching design, life drawing and illustration. She said he was traditionally taught but was also a craftsman and passed on both influences to his students.

Jonas was born in France but came to this country at age 14 and eventually settled, with his family, in Spokane. He struggled for four decades with diabetes, and his kidneys gave out in 1999. He began weekly dialysis and in 2001 joined the long list of Americans awaiting kidney transplants. Though doctors had told him he would wait about three years, he received the transplant just a year later.

Jonas is survived by his wife, Patricia, five children and one grandchild. His family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Joe Jonas Scholarship Fund, c/o NIC Foundation, 1000 W. Garden Ave., Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814.

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