Four ‘ladies of education’ are this year’s Grand Marshals

OROVILLE – Four ladies of education are this year’s May Festival Grand Marshals – Joyce Forthun, Jo Mathews, Judy DeVon and Esther Sorenson.

Joyce Forthun was raised in Molson and graduated from Molson High School. After attending Central Washington University, she worked in education for 41 years. She started teaching at Edmonds, Wash. And then Davis, Calif, only to return to her hometown and teaching at Molson for two years.

This year’s Oroville May Festival Grand Marshals are (l-r) Joyce Forthun, Judy DeVon, Esther Sorensen and Jo Mathews, pictured here on Mother’s Day. Gary DeVon/staff photo
This year’s Oroville May Festival Grand Marshals are (l-r) Joyce Forthun, Judy DeVon, Esther Sorensen and Jo Mathews, pictured here on Mother’s Day. Gary DeVon/staff photo

“The first year I taught there Molson was still part of the Molson School District, the second it was part of the Oroville School District,” she said.

From there she took her teaching skills north and taught at Prince Rupert, BC before coming back to Okanogan County and teaching in the elementary in the first through fifth grades, retiring in 1992. Well, sort of, she went back and ran the HOST, Help One Student to Succeed, reading mentor program, which pairs volunteers from the community with elementary students who need extra help with their reading skills. She also spent a year in the remedial math program for fourth graders.

“I’m humbled, very humbled about being chosen as one of the grand marshals,” she said.

Forthun was married to the late Ed Forthun, who worked for the Okanogan County PUD’s Oroville office. She has one son, Darryn Trainor, and three grandchildren and four step-grandchildren.

Jo Mathews was a familiar face at Oroville Elementary School where she was a secretary in the office. During her 26 years as a secretary for the Oroville School District, while mostly seen in the elementary, she said she also worked “some at the high school” and “a little bit” at the district office. She retired from the school district 18 years ago.

She grew up in Osoyoos, BC and came to Oroville after marrying her husband, the late Lloyd Mathews in 1958. Together they had two sons, Chad and Todd. She has four grandchildren.

“It was a big surprise… I feel it is very special,” she said, about being chosen one of the grand marshals for this year’s May Festival.

Judy DeVon was raised in Ellensburg, Wash. and attended schools there before going to Central Washington University where she graduated with a degree in psychology. It was also there she met her future husband, Larry DeVon and together they had three sons, Gary, Dante and Michael. She has eight grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Her first teaching job was at Kent, Wash., later moving with her family to Oroville where her husband had started a partnership in the Pastime Tavern and she began teaching fifth grade. During the course of her 30 years at Oroville Elementary she also taught seventh grade and fifth grade/sixth grade split classes.

“I was surprised, I never thought I’d be chosen to be a grand marshal,” said DeVon

Esther Sorensen has been in and out of education at Oroville for 41 years, she says. She grew up in Montana and attended school at Montana State University in Missoula. She and her late husband Garry met there. They later accepted teaching jobs in Oroville the same year, she as a Senior English as a Second Language, ESL,teacher.

“Bob Drummond hired Garry and I sight unseen, she said, adding that there were so many new hires from Montana at Oroville that they often sang the state song.

Then she was a substitute teach and then worked with the Migrant Program, she said. She also directed plays at the school for about six years.

“English is not my first language,” she said, adding, “I learned English at school.”

Sorensen has two children, Lisa and Scott, and four grandchildren.