Friends, family and coworkers welcomed Joanne Leith into retirement today, honoring the Colville Tribal elder with a lunchtime potluck at the Nespelem Senior Meal Site.
Leith, most recently employed at the Colville Tribal Area Agency on Aging Program, worked for more than 30 years for the tribe, including two terms on the Colville Business Council from 1997-1999.
But her time at the tribe seemed so much longer, said Colville Tribal member Deby Stanger, hazarding to guess Leith had been at the tribe closer to 45 years.
Like many in the room, Leith was one of Stanger’s first bosses.
“I always thought of how she presented herself in the front of our building,” said Stanger, talking about Leith’s time as an administrative assistant in the Colville Tribes’ former A-Frame Administration building.
Leith taught Stanger how to run the switchboard among other skills Stanger said allowed her to work anywhere she’d wanted.
“She always taught us even if it’s the worse person coming through that door, you smile. You be cordial,” said Stanger.
“I know there’s a lot of people she taught,” said Stanger.
Colville Business Councilmember Ricky Gabriel, Nespelem District, presented Leith with an honorary Pendleton blanket, thanking her for her hard work.
“Thanks for all your services,” said Gabriel. “Most importantly, thank you for all the things you taught your children and grandchildren.”
“She has always been a role model,” said former CBC representative Brian Nissen, who talked about a time in his youth when Joanne and husband Jasper took him in. “She was always at work early, always working hard.”
“When did we get old?” asked Leona Stanger, high school friend, congratulating Leith. “The years have just slipped by so fast.”
Leith thanked everyone for coming, speaking briefly of health issues and the recent loss of her husband.
“I sure enjoyed working for the tribe,” she said. “It was an honor.”
She closed by wishing the AAOA office the best luck.
“It’s always an honor to work with the elders. They trust us,” she said, smiling. “Because I am one.”