Billie Jo Baretta Jones was born October 11, 2013, to an unwed mother who had arranged for the baby's adoption before the birth so that the child could immediately go to a family.
Billie Jo was adopted by Mary and Elliott Jones, who had applied for adoption of a newborn about 18 months earlier. The baby immediately captivated Mary and Elliott from the moment she entered their lives.
Billie Jo thrived on the care of her loving parents and her babysitters, Aunties Julie and Eleanor. Like most youngsters, she was curious and adventurous as well as willful and independent. She loved exploring—especially where she knew she wasn't supposed to go—and was never afraid of going places by herself.
Her parents loved her courage and independence. However, more than once, Billie Jo received a scolding or a time-out for going off on her own in pursuit of what she wanted. Mary complained to friends that once the child got an idea in her head, she was going to have what she wanted, no matter what.
Elliott was a good father and loved spending time with his little girl. He enjoyed reading to her and helping her learn to roller skate and ride a two-wheeler. Billie Jo always ran gleefully to her daddy as soon as he came home from work. Mary loved seeing them together and took lots of pictures.
As soon as they felt Billie Jo would understand, Mary and Elliott told Billie Jo she was adopted and how special she was to them. Billie Jo embraced her life and felt sorry for her friends whose biological parents sometimes treated them as nuisances instead of as a treasure like her parents did.
Because Mary made many of Barbara's pageant clothes and the fittings took place at the Joneses' home, Billie Jo knew Barbara Dubois all of her life. Billie Jo thought Barbara was the most beautiful person ever, and it didn't take long for her to start copying Barbara's mannerisms and talents.
Barbara generously shared her limited free time with Billie Jo, taught her tap and jazz, and answered endless questions about the life of a beauty queen. Barbara didn't glorify the pageant life and even subtly tried to discourage Billie Jo, but the child insisted she wanted to be a beauty queen just like her "Auntie Barbara."
When Elliott died suddenly in the spring of 2020, Billie Jo was brokenhearted and confused. She couldn't understand how her beloved daddy could just be gone like that. Barbara, who had also lost her father when she was very young, did everything she could to help Billie Jo adjust to the changes in her life.
By the time of the Yoknapatawpha County Literature Festival Beauty Pageant, Billie Jo was beginning to show signs of recovery when she was devastated once again by the loss of her Auntie Barbara.