After a year long battle with cancer, Jona was called home by her Heavenly Father on Friday, July 20, 2018, surrounded by friends and family. She was born on June 6, 1967 to Harold LaBree and Linda (Hanley-LaBree) Newman in Ekalaka, MT. On December 28, 1968, her father, Harold passed away.
In December, 1971, Linda married Dean Newman of Ingomar, MT and Jona gained a stepfather. Jona (4 ½) stood watch over the blessed event…she can be observed smiling from ear to ear, front and center, in their wedding pictures. Dean remembers her youth as, “into everything, all the time”. He also, fondly, recalls her as being, “one of the best hands on horseback, working cattle, that he has been around!”
In 1973, her first half-sister, Tara Jo, was born; then came Mauri (Mo) and Jami (Jim) soon after. So, basically, she became a “second Mom” to all of them. Linda recalls going to events with all of them and Dean would have one, Linda would have one, and Jona would have one!! From then on, Jona was usually accompanied by one of them most of the time as they idolized her! Her “uncle/brother” Justin Hanley came to live with the family during Jona’s High School years and they had a lot of memorable “cowboying” experiences together!
Jona attended elementary school in Melstone, MT., where she participated in 4-H (taking sewing, cooking, and horse projects), youth rodeos and became the tiniest member (mascot) for the Melstone Broncs High School Cheerleaders. During this time, she also became an NRA Rodeo sensation by riding one of Eddie Grebe’s (Go Rodeo Co.) best saddle bronc horses, Good Eye, around the arena after bucking off most of his riders. The pickup men would jerk the flank and lead him over to Dean and he would put a bridle on him and give Jona a “leg up” and she would trot him around the arena!
All 4 years of High School were spent at Winnett High School, in Winnett, MT, where Jona graduated Valedictorian of her class in 1985. All through her high school years, she participated in High School Rodeo, Basketball, Track, Pep-Band, Choir, Drill Team and Football Cheerleading. Also, during this time, she competed in the Miss Montana Teen Pageant in Helena.
Jona spent much of her teen summers helping on the ranch, breaking horses, and traveling to High School Rodeos. She won numerous belt buckles and many other awards and trophies including an “all around” saddle. She also earned the distinction of District High School Rodeo Queen, much to the delight of all her little sisters…which led them all to run around the arena horseback, flicking their fingers, learning how to achieve the “queen wave”!
After high school, Jona attended Miles Community College in Miles City on rodeo, basketball, and academic scholarships. For the 2 years she was there, she was a member of the College Rodeo Team and Girls Basketball Team. Jona earned her Accounting Degree from Eastern Montana College in Billings, MT while rounding out her cheerleading career for the EMC Men’s Basketball Team.
During the summer breaks during her college years, she worked for the BLM Fire Fighting Crew as a dispatcher and in the field. Those experiences took her to many places in Montana as well as far away as Alaska.
Jona moved to Las Vegas, NV after graduating from College with a former friend and MCC Basketball team member, Nancy Kalafat, to pursue her accounting career. During this time, she met and married Ted Walkowski (who was stationed in the Air Force there) in Billings, MT in 1993. In 1995, their first son, Wyatt, arrived and then 4 years later, Dru arrived. Shortly before Dru’s arrival, the family moved to Bryan, OH to pursue a family business opportunity in plastics manufacturing. While there, she managed the office and accounting processes and also became a very integral part of that community through school and church activities.
Ted and Jona divorced in 2005 and she relocated to Canyon, TX. She met and later married Lige Murray in 2007. Jona gained 3 step-children through that union…Kylie, Reed, and Hannah. Lige and Jona also hosted a foreign exchange student, Jaime Rodriguez, and have stayed in close touch with him since. They also were able to visit his home in Spain and meet his family a few years ago, which they thoroughly enjoyed.
Jona was blessed over the years to have numerous opportunities to travel with friends and family. In addition to Spain, she accompanied the Murray family to Holland, went with friends to Indonesia and traveled to various other locations in the United States.
The remaining months, weeks, and days of Jona’s life was spent surrounded by many that loved her. In the later stages, they became lovingly referred to, by the nurses, as the “party crowd’ outside her hospice facility. On many nights, Jona would join them for as long as she could endure it!
She is preceded in death by her father, Harold LaBree, Paternal Grandparents, John and Frances LaBree; Maternal Grandparents, Jack and Roxye Hanley and Step-Grandmother, Doris Hanley.
Survivors include her parents: Dean and Linda Newman; sons: Wyatt Walkowski (fiance, Victoria Jade Walker) and Dru Walkowski; husband, Lige Murray; step-children: Kylie (Tony) Thompson, Reed (Jade) Murray, and Hanna Murray; 4 step-grandchildren: Eli, Kota, Monte Bo, and Kinzlee. Sisters: Tara (Neil) Bradley and Nikia; Mauri (Kelvin) Elness and Jorden DeHaven and Laynee; Jami (Curt) DeHaven and Logan, Jaxen and Treylen.
A Memorial service will be held on Thursday, July 26, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. at Stevenson & Sons Funeral Home in Miles City. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting: www.stevensonandsons.com. Should friends desire memorials can be made to the Dougherty Hospice House, 4509 S Prince of Peace Pl, Sioux Falls SD 57103.