Joan Donaldson Sept | 1929-2020

Joanie Donaldson was born in Evanston, Illinois, in 1929 and grew up as an only child living with her parents and her grandfather in several suburbs along the north shore of Chicago. She went to Cubbies games with her Grampa, learned to swim in Lake Michigan and loved to draw from an early age. She graduated from New Trier High School in the class of 1947 and, in 1951, earned a B.A. in English Literature from Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin. After a year working in Chicago, she joined a college friend who shared her spirit of adventure (and had a car) and the two of them drove to San Francisco, California.

In San Francisco, Joan met and married Don Sept, a young engineer working for Standard Oil of California, and they settled in the SF Bay Area and began to raise a family. They weren’t settled for long, however, before Don’s job took them on a series of multi-year, overseas assignments, first to Central America and then to Europe. Over a lifetime, they were privileged to live in many beautiful places, including St. Helena, California; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and Friday Harbor, Washington.

Excited to see the world, and an intrepid traveler, Joan was an essential partner to Don in these family journeys. She not only organized the myriad logistics of international moves, often on very short notice, but she also made everything seem fun. She was devoted to her family and has left her children with indelible memories and a shared love of travel, food and the arts. Joan is survived by her daughter Jeanne (and Martha) of Friday Harbor, Washington; her sons Clark (and Julie) of Oakland, California, and Steven (and Rosilynn) of Tumwater, Washington; and six beautiful granddaughters, Annie (and Patrick Harkins), Amy, Simone, Allison, Emily (and Andrew Haakensen) and Amanda. Joan was preceded in death by her parents Harry and Marian Donaldson; her infant twin brother Gordon; and her husband Don.

Joanie couldn’t imagine a life without dogs. She loved bird-watching and people-watching and cultivating friendships. She loved sipping a cappuccino, sketching in a sunny piazza. Her creativity and optimism found many expressions over the years, whether throwing ceramic pots on a wobbly, old kick-wheel in the garage; painting large canvases with oils; wrapping whimsical Christmas presents; cooking vibrant meals; choosing colorful balloons for parties; or writing her memoirs. She was honored with one-woman shows of her watercolor paintings in Jackson, Wyoming, and Friday Harbor, Washington.

Joan lived life with joy, kindness, an open mind and an open heart. She slipped from our world peacefully, enveloped in love from her wonderful care-giving team and her family. We will miss her greatly. To share memories of Joan, please sign the online guestbook at