John Amos Jollie of Tucson, Arizona, passed away on January 10, 2021, with his family at his side. John was born on June 26, 1940 in Belcourt, North Dakota, to parents Robert O. Jollie and Virginia A. Lafrance. He was the fourth and youngest son, and the family would later welcome four daughters. Though John was born on the reservation and was an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, he and his family worked and lived on the Yakima Reservation in Washington state, and the Flathead reservation in Montana. John was a well-loved, kind, and good-natured kid, and, in the words of his brother Bob, “everybody knew it.” He would grow up to tell tales of his upbringing with his brothers and sisters that would rival those in his favorite book, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
John went on to graduate high school from Dixon High School in Montana in 1959. He married his first wife, Ernestine Roullier and the couple gave birth to their first daughter, Patricia Ann “Patty” Jollie in 1960. John worked in Billings while simultaneously pursuing a Bachelor’s of Arts degree at Eastern Montana College, now Montana State University. After much hard work and a few ulcers later, he earned his degree in Political Science. John and Ernie had two other daughters, Pamela Jaye and Joan Rochelle Jollie in 1963 and 1964. The family left Montana for Navajo Nation when John went to manage the Fairchild Industries semiconductor plant in Shiprock, New Mexico. Afterwards they moved to Cupertino, California, where John continued work for Fairchild Industries; and finally to the Washington, DC area, when John pursued a position in the Office of the Vice President, the National Council on Indian Opportunity. While living in the DC metro area, John held several managerial positions in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and worked on a variety of initiatives including education legislation, economic development, Indian employment, and the federal acknowledgement process for non-recognized tribes.
John’s greatest passion was to work with tribal governments as they pursued economic opportunities for their people-- through economic development, job training, job creation, and improved education. His achievements for Indian Country were many, but highlights include his work getting the landmark legislation Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act passed into law in 1971, securing a massive win for Alaska Natives. He also managed the BIA Indian Action Team program, an integrated training program that was implemented on reservations across the country and was highly popular both among tribes and on Capitol Hill. He also greatly enjoyed his program management work with the Chippewa Cree Tribe manufacturing “Big Bud” commercial grade tractors, and at the Turtle Mountain Manufacturing Company, designing products for the Department of Defense; most notably, a fresh water trailer which they called the “Water Buffalo.”
In addition to his many career accomplishments, John made many close friends out of colleagues and acquaintances in Washington, D.C. His long-time friend and one-time roommate Dick Cowden described him as, “not… a buttoned-down bureaucrat… (but one of those)... richly funny personalities who didn't take themselves or the holy citadel of DC too seriously.” He lived a full life, and had many hobbies outside of work, including playing golf with friends, restoring old cars, and playing the guitar.
John married his second wife, Sharon Gail McCully, in 1975 in Washington, D.C. The couple welcomed their only child, Jessica Winston Jollie, in 1991. After a long and prolific career, John retired from the government in 1999, but kept busy working for his tribe’s company, Uniband; playing golf; and driving around in his eggplant-purple Porsche 911.
John, along with his wife and youngest daughter, relocated to Sonoita, Arizona, in 2002. John made friends in the rural southwest just as quickly as he had in metropolitan DC. He was beloved by the community, and was a constant feature in any old car garage, the local café, and at various school functions. He was diagnosed with Aphasia and Apraxia in 2013, which he fought for over 10 years.
John is preceded in death by his parents, his younger sister, Virginia May, and an infant son, Patrick. He is survived by his wife Sharon; siblings Edward “Mick,” James “Jim,” Robert “Bob” (Karen), Karen (Ray) Patnode, Colleen, and Tara; daughters Patricia, Pamela (Jon) Herring, Joan, and Jessica (Jackson Menner); grandchildren Kristen (Dez) Turgeon, Carolyn Herring, and Sarah Herring; and two great-grandchildren Rose and Jonathan Turgeon.
It is a truly impossible task to capture John’s spirit in words on a page. He was fiercely loving and kind to everyone around him, and as a result every person who encountered him loved him back instantly. He was always playful and encouraging, and knew exactly what wonderful things you were capable of achieving, even if you didn’t know yourself. He had a fantastic singing voice, and would play the guitar without a pick, until his fingers bled, as long as there were people singing along. He would tell wonderful, funny stories, and had a way of putting those around him at ease with his sense of humor. He was never afraid to bring dreams to life, and never let fear get in the way living the life that he wanted. He would routinely stop his car to let trails of quail cross the dirt road safely. He was always unabashedly proud of you, and he would not be shy to say it. He was, respectfully, the best person in the World.
Though a service to celebrate his life is postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, donations can be made in his name to Friends of Aphasia, a Tucson Non-Profit Organization that provided much support to him in his later years.