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Rhonda Annette

Rhonda Rhea Jokela Annette, 58, of Park Rapids, passed away March 12, 2009.

She was born, a second child, to Eddie and Lorraine Jokela on their third wedding anniversary, June 15, 1950. Her rural childhood days working on the family farm sparked her enthusiasm and love for animals and the outdoors. She began riding horses as a toddler and participated at area youth downhill ski camps and was an accomplished seamstress. She was also a talented musician and majorette in the PRHS marching band. She was also a football and wrestling cheerleader. She graduated from Park Rapids in 1968 and recently enjoyed her 40-year class reunion. She married John Annette of Ponsford; son David Jay was born the following year. They lived and worked in the Fargo-Moorhead area. She was employed by Northwest Federal S&L. She dedicated herself to her family, working hard at home and her full-time job until health problems ensued and persisted. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 25. She continued raising her son to the best of her ability, always conscious that her days were numbered to less than the average person. She played an integral part in organizing the first Park Rapids Rodeo in June 1978. She took charge and helped guide this endeavor into the early 1980s until moving west for more downhill skiing, which she believed would provide the exercise she needed to maintain her health.

She enjoyed the mountain villages of Telluride, Colo., and Red Lodge, Mont. In Telluride, she enjoyed rocking babies at the ski resort's day care to earn her ski pass. She adopted a "granola" lifestyle and explored alternative health foods, remedies and treatments. She was an excellent cook. During the 1980s in Red Lodge, she served on the Home of Champions Rodeo Committee, danced for Finnish and other days in the Festival of Nations, was a Winter Carnival snow queen, helped more severely disabled individuals gain independent living skills, and was a strong activist for handicapped accessibility to Red Lodge's sidewalks and stores. During her years in Red Lodge, she went from walking with a limp to using a cane, leg braces, a walker, and eventually a motorized scooter. She was enrolled in classes at Montana State University, Billings for two years, riding her scooter around campus. As her illness progressed, so did her skiing. She was an excellent training subject for Eagle Mount using the mono-ski with her "oh well" carefree attitude and desire to do all she could to improve the quality of life for disabled people. She didn't mind being a "guinea pig" as she said, for various experimental therapies and potential cures for MS. She was hopeful about a cure being discovered in her lifetime, and was willing to do all she could to help the cause. Her courage, tenacity and Finnish "sisu" (toughness) made her "best able to endure the hardships of this disease out of all our children," said her mother, Lorraine. Her reply was, "I just keep on keeping on..."

By 1996, the MS had taken a heavy toll on her health. She relocated to Minnesota to be closer to family assistance. The disease progressed even more and weakened her to the point that she needed long-term nursing care. She lived at Trevilla of Robbinsdale, Minn., from 1997-2001 until moving to Heritage Living Center in Park Rapids where she has lived since. She has battled more frequent and more intense infections over time, which her weakened immune system could no longer fight with the strongest of antibiotics.

Memorial services were held Tuesday, March 17 at St. John's Lutheran Church in Park Rapids with the Rev. James Neubauer officiating. Honorary casketbearers were Greg Bishop, Loni Magnuson, Brett Bishop, Quinn Bishop, Talia Bishop, Luke Jokela, Bridger Jokela, Drew Jokela, Mike DeCarlo, Colson DeCarlo, Logan Veo and Peyton Jokela. Interment will be made in the Wolf Lake Cemetery. Jones-Pearson Funeral Home in Park Rapids is in charge of arrangements.

Survivors include her son, Jay, St. Louis Park; her parents, Eddie and Lorraine Jokela; siblings, Randy Jokela (Denese), Jolene Jokela-Veo (David), Jody Jokela-DeCarlo (Nick) and Jon Peter Jokela (Deb), plus nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins and good friends.

She was preceded in death by her older sister, Roxanne, in 1999.