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Lonon receives Order of Long Leaf Pine award

Jane Lonon, left, struggles to control her excitement when family and friends surprised
her with the state’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

Originally published: Jan. 15, 2013
Last modified: Jan. 15, 2013

Jesse Campbell

When Jane Lonon was asked to sit in on a special meeting at the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce Monday evening, she had no idea of the gathering of family of friends that awaited her. 

Under guise of a special arts meeting and its impact on the local economy, Lonon had agreed to stop by the chamber’s offices before heading home. 

Unknown to Lonon, community organizers had arranged a special ceremony to present her with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, which is the highest honor a civilian can be awarded in North Carolina. 

From the moment Lonon walked into the door she knew something was up. 

In unison, the crowd congratulated an already stunned Lonon, who was quickly escorted in by former state representative Cullie Tarleton. 

“I think I’m in trouble,” said Lonon, who by that point was alternating between moments of laughter and overwhelming joy. 

“Do you remember the television show, ‘This is your life?’” asked Tarleton. “Well this is the West Jefferson version.”

As with other local recipients, Tarleton presented Lonon with her award while explaining the significance of even being nominated for the recognition. 

“A common thread that runs through all recipients is years and years of public service to the community,” said Tarleton. 

With the award, Lonon joins the ranks of other notable North Carolinians, including Michael Jordan, Maya Angelou, Dale Earnhardt, Danny Glover and Charles Kuralt. 

“I feel that I am certainly in some great company,” said Lonon. “I am so humbled, surprised and honored.”

A graduate of Florida State University, Lonon has more than left her footprint on the art district in West Jefferson and Ashe County as a community. 

Tarleton said Lonon has remained active in the town’s annual Christmas in July Festival, which has emerged as the highlight of the summer season in Ashe County in celebrating the local tree industry. 

Lonon has served with the Ashe Memorial Hospital Foundation and the hospital’s board. She has also left her mark, perhaps most notably, in the arts. Lonon has played an intricate role in the choral society and the Ashe County Little Theater. 

Lonon’s efforts as a volunteer have not gone unnoticed. 

In addition to her latest accolade, Lonon has also earned the honor of Ashe County’s Volunteer of the Year, the state arts’ council volunteer of the year award, and is a recipient of the Chamber of Commerce’s Champion and President’s awards. 

“There is so much more that I want to do and plan on doing,” said Lonon. 

“Well, you don’t have to stop,” said Tarleton.

“This isn’t a retirement award,” someone in the audience added jokingly. 

With the award, Lonon shared the praise with those in her life that she said helped her achieve triumphs in the community. 

“All that I do for Ashe County, I do with the support of the community,” said Lonon. “Thank you for your support of me, your friendship, and all of the good things we will do for Ashe County.”

With all of the excitement surrounding Lonon’s special moment, she admitted that it almost didn’t happen.

“Let no one say that Ashe County does not do a good job of keeping a secret,” said Lonon. “When I couldn’t find a parking place outside I thought, ‘Well, maybe I should just head home. I’m glad that I didn’t.’”

For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.