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Being Juanita

The adventurous, unpredictable life of Juanita (and she is just getting started!)

Article by Lauri Gross

Photography by Francisco José Montero

Originally published in Potomac Lifestyle

Juanita considers her life unremarkable and thinks that others wouldn’t find it interesting. She’s wrong.

In a moment of clarity and understatement, she said, “I’ve always been the adventurous type,” and added, “I am not known for consistency or predictability.”

Today, in her 50s, Juanita lives on her farm in Maryland’s Agricultural Reserve and pursues an unusual set of hobbies, any one of which would keep most people plenty busy. “She said, “Thinking positively is the way to success in any endeavor along with a stiff upper lip … and the ability to laugh at oneself is essential.”  

Born in England, Juanita moved to the U.S. at 19, in the 1980s, leaving behind her mother and sisters. Her dad had left the family and lived in Pennsylvania with his new family. “I lived with him for one month and then moved out on my own,” Juanita said. She held several jobs in the advertising and legal fields in Philadelphia.

By the late 1990s, she had been married and divorced, had a daughter (Morgan, now 24) moved to New Jersey, and studied biological anthropology, applied physics, psychology and English literature in college. Why so many subjects?  She simply said, “I found them all interesting.” Shortly before earning a degree in physics and English literature, she had to quit. “I was in the process of divorce and ran out of dosh (money),” she explained.

For half of her decade in New Jersey, Juanita was a stay-at-home mom. In the other half, she was an animal control officer, animal cruelty investigator, a code enforcement officer, a multi-dwellings inspector, and a part-time horse and carriage driver. “I rode all my life, so I knew horses,” she said.

When Juanita met her second husband, Ron, she and Morgan moved to Ron’s Maryland horse farm. Juanita and Ron later took custody of Juanita’s nephew, Simon, and raised him as their son. In 2018, Juanita was widowed.

Juanita has medaled in 10 marathons and one ultra-marathon. A bicycle enthusiast with several 100-mile rides under her belt, Juanita has participated in many charitable fundraising rides. She earned a mixed martial arts brown belt, and enjoys a good fox chase. In her 40s, she learned to read music and play the piano.

Juanita spent a year with her mom in England, while her mom battled cancer. “I was grateful for that time with her,” Juanita said.  Juanita’s mom truly understood her daughter and used to say, “Like water off a duck’s back, nothing fazes Juanita and she always ends up smelling like roses.”   

During that year, Juanita went flying with a pilot friend. “He let me take the controls and said I’d be a natural so I took it up,” she said. Now a registered student pilot, Juanita flies for fun and also volunteers for Pilots ‘N Paws, delivering shelter pets to forever homes.

At her farm, which Juanita said she runs with help from “the indispensable Randy Woods,” Juanita cares for a menagerie of 19 rescue animals.

She describes her children as her proudest accomplishments. They and her mom are her greatest inspirations. She said all her life’s accomplishments are “mainly due to circumstances and people I’ve met along the way - for which I’m grateful.” 

Juanita is a member of a walking club and a book club yet that doesn’t mean she’s settling down. She recently took up Transcendental Meditation, is learning to fly fish and is writing a memoir.

Ideas for her memoir, she said, are scattered. She finds it challenging to put everything in some semblance of order. And that is quite understandable. 

When Juanita tried polo, she said, “True to my nature, I became addicted.” She competed worldwide and is now a lifetime member of the U.S. Polo Association. Sometimes she serves as an announcer or umpire. “Polo is not for the faint of heart,” said Juanita. “It is a combat sport.”