Joan Schwinge, 90, passed on April 29, 2019, in Friday Harbor, Washington. She was preceded in death by her husband of 66 years, Norman, and survived by their four sons: Robert, of Pacific Palisades, California; Craig, and his wife Patti, of Santa Cruz, California; Mark, of San Juan Island; and Scott, and his wife Susan, of San Juan Island; her sister, Joyce King of Oak Harbor, Washington; and sister Irene Eraut, and her husband Warren, of Oak Harbor, Washington. She has four grandchildren, Sarah Nguyen of Pasadena; Loren Schwinge of Santa Cruz; Devon Schwinge of San Juan Island; Grant Schwinge in Corvallis, Oregon; and a great-grandson, Evan, born to Sarah and Tim Nguyen.
Joan was born on March 11, 1929, in Portland, Oregon, the oldest of three daughters of Gentry and Freda Hills. She was active in Camp Fire Girls and maintained several of those friendships throughout her adult life. She was active in sports and outdoor endeavors, particularly fishing trips with her father. She graduated from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, where she majored in journalism, worked on the school’s paper, and met and married (1952) Norman Schwinge, the paper’s editor. Joan taught first grade until 1955 when Norm’s promotion relocated them to Pacific Palisades, California, where they raised their family. There she directed a Methodist preschool for 13 years and completed graduate work in early childhood education at Pacific Oaks College and UCLA. Her family enjoyed vacations in the Northwest, visiting family in Portland, relaxing on the Oregon Coast and cruising in the San Juan Islands. They also had a cabin at Green Valley Lake, California, where they enjoyed many ski vacations.
Joan and Norm moved to San Juan Island in 1979 and bought the San Juan Hotel. Remodeling and upgrades soon followed as they converted it to a bed-and-breakfast and renamed it the San Juan Inn. In 1980 they built a house on the island’s west side where she enjoyed reading, gardening, stained glass projects, walking the dog and daily viewing of the ocean. She was an active kayaker and took multiday expeditions with island friends to the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Joan enjoyed the company of family and friends. She and Norm loved to travel, taking many cruises and family vacations to Hawaii, San Diego, Canada, eastern Oregon and the Oregon coast. They traveled extensively, visiting Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. China was her favorite.
For four decades Joan was active in the San Juan community. She was elected to the San Juan Island School District Board. She also helped form the Animal Protection Society and establish the animal shelter. She and Norm attended Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church. She helped to establish the Wee Care Day Care Center and the Family Umbrella Group. In 2014, she and Norm retired to Village at the Harbour. Loving and cheerful to the end, Joan was a friend to people and all creatures. She and Norm have been very generous to family, friends and our island community. She will be greatly missed by those fortunate to have known her.
A memorial service will be held at Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church, 425 Spring St., May 25 at 2 p.m. Donations in Joan’s memory may be sent to Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 946, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.