To the editor:
I first met Juanita Jo Matkins over 25 years ago when she was teaching a class for the Virginia Extension Office on heart healthy recipes. I didn’t realize at the time that she was a teacher for many years at Piedmont Christian and Jouett Elementary schools, teaching science and gifted education. In fact, she won a national award for her teaching – the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics.
I was busy working and raising a family at Blue Ridge Shores, so our paths did not cross again for a few years. After my kids got to high school, I became a graduate student at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Juanita Jo was an associate professor there, teaching science education. The university is pretty selective about hiring professors, so I was impressed that a fellow Louisan had a position on the staff.
Fast forward a few more years. My husband and I had been to many of the Christmas Cantatas and other special events at Yanceyville Christian Church over the years and we liked the church, so we decided to join. At that time, Juanita Jo was a church elder and she led the liturgy service every Sunday. I was impressed with the church for accepting a woman as a church leader and impressed with her for bringing intelligence, passion and a sense of grace to the weekly ceremony.
My husband and I attended church there for many years and Juanita Jo was a church trustee and an active member of the Sunday School, always bringing new ideas and concerns to the conversation. Like my husband, who was a physicist for the Army at Ft. Belvoir, Juanita Jo was a commuter to her job in Northern Virginia as an assistant professor at George Mason University. They shared many “road warrior” stories about Northern Virginia’s traffic problems and relished the fact that they could enjoy a home in rural Louisa.
Over the next few years, we got to know Juanita Jo and her husband, Don Short, former Commonwealth’s Attorney for Louisa County. Juanita Jo was an avid horsewoman when she was young and her family had a small farm here. She helped her father breed, train and show horses.
One summer, Juanita Jo came by our farm to catch frogs from our pond for her summer session at the College of William and Mary, where she trained science teachers how to do hands-on science in the lab. Along with a fellow professor, she had written and administered several multi-million dollar grants to develop techniques to train teachers who were upgrading K-12 science curriculums all over the country.
She retired in 2015 from William and Mary as a full professor. But retirement did not mean resting on her laurels. She served on the Louisa County Board of Zoning Appeals. She joined a county gospel choir. She helped found the Louisa Chapter of Spread the Vote and worked to register new voters. At church, she took on the job of full-time organist. With other members of the church, she helped found the Yanceyville Summer Nature Camp for children.
Juanita Jo Matkins has been a resident of Louisa County for many, many years. She taught in the schools. She raised her family here. She worked at many universities but she always made her home in Louisa. She has been an active member of the community for most of her life.
Now she is running as a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 56th district, which includes all of Louisa County. She will work to keep our schools and state universities top-notch. She is determined to help bring broadband and decent internet service to our rural communities. She believes that everyone should have access to good health care. If you want someone who will represent our interests in Richmond, then vote for a Louisan. Cast your vote on Nov. 5 for Juanita Jo Matkins for 56th House of Delegates. She’s got your back.