Joan Frances Mooney Rowe was born Nov. 5, 1928, to Nell and Roy Mooney in Lakewood, Washington. Her father, Roy, drove a fuel truck, and her mother, Nell, was an artist with an eye for nature’s patterns and textures.
At age 4 Joan’s love of beachcombing began at her Aunt Elsie’s hotel in Lincoln Beach, Oregon. She would go on to share that hobby and her love of nature with her three sons and her granddaughter.
Joan attended schools in Clover Park, where she made friendships that would last her whole life. After graduating from College of Puget Sound (now UPS), Joan started teaching primary grades at Medina school in Bellevue, WA.
She married Jack Huston, and moved to New York City where he attended New York University. She taught at the Dalton School where children of famous people came to school in chauffeured limousines. What a change for a country girl from Clover Park! Her first son, Mark, was born in New York.
The family then moved to Ankara, Turkey, where Jack had a study grant for two years. Joan taught in the American school in Ankara and they had a second son, Phil. Returning to the U.S., they lived in Syracuse, New York, where Jack taught at the university, and where third son Paul was born. They lived summers in France and Sweden and camped around Europe with the boys.
After moving back to the Northwest in 1968, Joan went back to teaching elementary school in Bellevue, WA. In the early 80s, Bellevue had an influx of refugee students and Joan found a talent for working with students who arrived with little English. She later taught English as a Second Language at Bellevue Senior High.
In 1979 Joan married Bruce Rowe, who owned a building materials business. Bruce and Joan loved to travel, and visited France, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Japan, China and the South Pacific, including many trips to Bora Bora.
After receiving a master’s degree from the University of Washington, Joan became a librarian specializing in children’s literature, back again at Medina (Now Bill Gates’ neighborhood). She retired from Bellevue Schools in 1989 and Joan and Bruce moved to their waterfront house at Cape San Juan, 10 miles out of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Bruce passed away in 2011.
Over the years Joan built a collection of classic primers for teaching reading, some dating from the 1800’s, which she donated to the library school at Western Washington University. She also collected beautiful baskets and shells from around the world. But it was at her local San Juan beaches, where in her trademark purple jacket she played keep-the-stick with her beloved Australian terrier Katie, that she used her keen eye to find the prettiest rocks and agates.
She kept up correspondence with many friends — including friends from childhood, friends from her travels, and even some students (and parents of students) she had taught many years before.
Whether sending handwritten notes to friends and family, taking roses from her garden to the Life Care center, or bringing deviled eggs to neighborhood potlucks, Joan was a kind and generous presence. She was a caring friend and neighbor, and a devoted and loving mother and grandmother. We were lucky to have had the grace of her company for so long. She will be greatly missed.
She is survived by former husband Jack Huston; sons Mark (Marcia) and Phil, in Seattle; Paul (Krista) in Los Angeles; and granddaughter Bridget in Oakland, California.
There will be a celebration of life for Joan at Brickworks in Friday Harbor on Saturday, Aug. 18 at 3 p.m. The family suggests any remembrances be directed to San Juan Island Library in Friday Harbor, Washington. For more information: Mark Huston (206-226-1089) or Phil Huston (206-669-5401).