If there was ever a person who epitomized a sophisticated woman, it was Joanne Jemison Gallinghouse. An entrepreneur, business leader and community advocate, she helped shape the business community on the Northshore.
She founded Gallinghouse & Associates in 1986, at a time when a woman-owned business, much less an advertising agency owned by a woman, was a rarity. St. Tammany was a rural parish of quaint towns, country roads and farmland. Native New Orleanians, Gallinghouse and her husband, Walter, had fallen under the spell of the Tchefuncte River, and Covington quickly became their adopted home.
Gallinghouse earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at LSU followed by a MBA at Southeastern Louisiana University. The advertising agency was a natural evolution of her desire to own a business and her interest in human behavior and motivation. She began by doing what she did best—putting together a team of talented professionals who could achieve clients’ communications goals. Over the last 32 years, she built a stellar reputation for customer service, visionary leadership and strategic thinking.
Gallinghouse started several professional and organizational endeavors to address unfulfilled needs within the community. She launched Sophisticated Woman magazine as a vehicle to celebrate women in business. It wasn’t her first foray into publishing however; nor was it the first time she addressed a local need. When she was a young teenager, she pulled together friends from her street and created the “Green Acres Do-Gooders Club.” They would go door-to-door asking neighbors if they needed help with chores such as weeding gardens or raking leaves. Gallinghouse would then recount their activities on her Smith and Corona typewriter, make copies of the “Do-Gooders” newsletter and distribute it in mailboxes.
Drawing from her creativity and love of the arts, Gallinghouse was instrumental in the creation of the Covington Three Rivers Art Festival and Leadership St. Tammany, two organizations that have continued to grow and improve the quality of life on the Northshore. “Joanne’s commitment to making her community a better place was equaled only by her love for the extended artist-family she assembled over the years,” said Sarada Bonnett, the festival’s event coordinator. “The fact that the event now attracts over 60,000 visitors each year is a testament to her vision.”
Longtime colleague and president and CEO of the St. Tammany Parish Tourist Commission Donna O’Daniels credited Gallinghouse with helping brand the area as a tourist destination. “She was a great mentor to me. For this North Carolina native who had only recently moved to the Northshore, she taught me a greater appreciation for St. Tammany, for Louisiana, and for the people who live here.”
While most people knew Gallinghouse as a successful businesswoman, it was only a small portion of who she was. Her family and friends were the most important things in her life. The oldest child and only daughter, she was the apple of her father’s eye and a beautiful reflection of her mother. She absolutely adored her siblings Michael and Eddie Jemison, and she loved their children as her own. She began a holiday tradition of baking with the children in the family when her niece, Terri, was a child. Over the years, it grew to include Eddie’s children, Daisy and Jasper and, most recently, Terri’s daughter Violet.
“Joanne was determined that distance would not separate us. She made sure we spent quality time with one another and when we did, Joanne was far more interested in learning about what we were doing in our lives than discussing hers,” Eddie said. “She had a genuine curiosity about others that made everyone feel special.”
Gallinghouse had a zest for adventure that poured over into her friendships. She was a member of the Divine Protectors of Endangered Pleasures and paraded down Bourbon Street as a DIVA during Mardi Gras. She took girls’ trips to New York City and spent many weekends at the beach with her “tribe.” Her spirit was infectious, and she filled every moment with laughter. And, if anyone ever wondered how she convinced her husband to dress as an Elvis impersonator and accompany the DIVAs, she had a lot of practice. As a child, she was known to dress up her younger brothers, pop them in a wagon and parade down the street throwing beads.
Gallinghouse was universally known for her eye for fashion and accessories, and she enjoyed dressing those she loved as well. She and dear friend Moe Clary spent their Saturday mornings getting their shopping fix on. “The common refrain when I’d arrive home with bags of clothes or show up at a party with a new outfit or new shoes was ‘Jo made me buy it,’” Clary said.
Gallinghouse had an abundance of friends and a large family, but it was her husband who took center stage in her life. The two travelled extensively, often in the plane Walter piloted, and they lived life to the fullest. Together, they experienced extraordinary trials and tribulations and came out stronger for it. She was his steadfast advocate following his battle with leukemia. They were constant companions until his death in 2017.
When Gallinghouse had knee surgery on May 16, no one could have imagined that surgical complications would claim her life nine days later. From the constant vigil at the hospital to the hundreds of people who paid their respects following her death, the outpouring of love and admiration offered great comfort to her family. Those who loved her were not there because of her business acumen, but because of her heart. Even in her final days, she remained a role model and an example of a life well lived.