In her heart, Joan was an Astoria girl, no matter where she lived, and she lived in many places over the course of a long life. She had an innate ability to be the center of attention, something she started early in life when, at the age of three months, she swallowed an open safety pin. The Daily Astorian reported at the time that Joan was the youngest patient ever to undergo surgery at CMH. In those simpler times, it took her parents several years to pay the related bills.
Joan graduated from Astoria High School in 1949. She was proudest of three things; in her senior year, she had a column in the school paper, she had a weekly KAST show with Larry Garrett, a classmate, and father (Coke), the shop manager a Lovell Auto, trusted her to drive new cars from the distributor in Portland back to Astoria. Joan picked up her artistic skills from her mother, Myrtle, a milliner, and amateur watercolorist.
Joan fondly remembered that all through her school years she was best friends with Nancy Lum, the youngest of David’s older sisters. She learned how to use chopsticks at the Lum dining table, at the rear of Lum Quing Grocery Store. In 1951 she married Bob Larson, a logger, by whom she was blessed to have two boys, Wade and Pierce. Her first move away from Astoria was when Bob was drafted during the Korean War. They lived in a trailer in Riverside, California, near March Air Force Base. When Bob’s service ended, they returned to Astoria. Sadly, the marriage ended in divorce.
In the early 1960s, Joan was the note teller at the Astoria Branch of U.S. Bank. In 1965 she met Jon Chambreau, a recently transferred loan officer, with a desk adjacent to the note teller’s cage. They married in 1966.
While Joan was an Astoria girl, she had a voracious appetite for the larger world. She was a reader, devouring Richard Halliburton’s book, Twenty League Boots in her early teens. Later she subscribed to Vogue, the Village Voice, as well as Women’s Wear Daily. These showed the possibilities of the world beyond.
Those possibilities arrived. Jon had left banking to enter the insurance business. That switch led to many moves: Beaverton, Seattle, Southern California, the Philippines, Babylon, on New York’s Long Island, both Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, Babylon again, before going to Mumbai, India, Jersey City, NJ, and finally, in retirement, in Ilwaco, WA.
Along the way, Joan worked as a secretary for the Department of Endocrinology at OHSU, the Physician in Chief at Seattle’s Harborview Hospital, and for Ken Cory, a rising
California politician from Orange County, CA. Her working career ended when she and her husband moved to the Philippines.
In 1976 Joan planned a trip that took her, Jon, and Pierce from Manila to Singapore and Bangkok, then on to Tehran and Isfahan in Iran, followed by Vienna, Paris, London, and New York. It was glorious.
The many moves were difficult for an Astoria girl. She missed home in ways that vacations there could not sate. In 1995, Jon and Joan bought a condominium in Beaverton, as a second home. As a child, Joan had longed for a pony. She called the Cadillac Seville kept at the Beaverton condo, her Pony.
Joan was determined to be the best at anything she did. She was an accomplished seamstress and a superb cook. She decorated and arranged flowers and had a keen eye for art. She was a life member of the National Garden Clubs of America.
Her collection of cookbooks, decorating books, and popular, and classic literature are measured by the yard. Multiple yards. She fully embraced all that she did, which explains hundred-plus tablecloths, multiple sets of flatware, and let’s not mention teapots. Enthusiasm was her hallmark.
In her later years, a veil of Alzheimer’s began to descend. At first, it was passed off as simply the effects of age. She stopped cooking because it was no longer automatic. She would tell Jon what to do, and together they could proceed as before. She stopped driving her Pony, saying she felt unsafe going to go over the bridge into Astoria. Then she stopped doing crossword puzzles, at which she had dispatched with great speed. Joan was aware she was not well, asking Jon what was happening to her. He would pull her close, saying he loved her. In a tragically wonderful way, Alzheimer’s bound them even more tightly together.
This Astoria girl has returned home. Joan will be interred at Ocean View Cemetery, where her parents, aunts, and so many life-long friends also reside. There will be a graveside service for the family.
Joan is survived by her husband, Jon, who continues to live in Ilwaco, her sons, Wade (Janice) of Astoria and Pierce in Hillsboro, granddaughters, Marjo (Jeff) and Allyson (Clay) both in Astoria, and five great-grandsons: Karson, Archer, Easton, Bowen, and Porter.