If you’re looking for a few words to describe Veteran and Bethesda Orchard resident Joann Folluo, you could start with “trendsetter” and “history maker.”

At 18 years old, Joann joined the U.S. Navy. Not only did she join the Navy, but as one of the first participants in the Naval Reserve’s WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) program, Joann was one of the first women in the nation to serve!

Joann was stationed at the Naval Air Station at Lambert Field, where she served as an Air Traffic Controller from 1953 to 1955 during the Korean War. She radioed all arriving and departing flights to gain clearance for Navy pilots flying into the base, and kept flight log books for pilots assigned to the Naval Air Station.

Despite being a woman in a male-dominated field, Joann never felt like she had something to prove. Her Navy experiences were wide ranging, and she learned many life lessons along the way. “Knowing the chain of command serves you well—it’s really important not only in the military but also in civilian life,” Joann says.

After the WAVES, Joann worked in a variety of fields, including accounting, engineering, homemaking and a 24-year career in education. She even ran for political office in the 1980s!

After her husband passed away, Joann looked ahead to her next chapter. Despite opposition from her children to move into an independent living community, Joann felt Bethesda Orchard was the perfect fit for her.

Joann moved to Bethesda Orchard in March 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic. “The day after I moved in, they stopped allowing visitors,” Joann says. “I didn’t know anyone. It was a very strange situation. But I started meeting people, and it has worked out just fine—I love living here.”

Today, Joann enjoys hosting friends for Rummikub and using Bethesda Orchard’s exercise equipment. She is grateful for the beautiful views of downtown St. Louis from her balcony (“I can see the Arch!” she says), and for Bethesda Orchard’s Veterans group.

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