Cover photo for Joan Kathleen Schmiege's Obituary
Joan Kathleen Schmiege Profile Photo
1931 Joan 2022

Joan Kathleen Schmiege

August 20, 1931 — February 21, 2022

Joan Kathleen Schmiege: An Intentional Life of Love

"When we lose someone we love, we must learn not to live without them, but to live with the love they left behind" -Unknown

If you had the pleasure of knowing Joan during her "long and wonderful life," as she recently described it, I'm sure you would smile as we do, remembering her whimsical, joyful nature, her love of conversation, and the warm appreciation she bestowed on friends and strangers alike. Joan had a gift for weaving wisdom and deep thoughts alongside silly, carefree moments, and this delightful mix has left us with fond memories of her to carry forward in our lives.

Joan Schmiege (Panes) was born in 1931 and raised in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. She was the youngest of two daughters, whose parents immigrated from England in the 1920s. Joan earned a Bachelor's degree in teaching as well as a Master's Degree from Northeastern Illinois University. For 24 years, she taught children with learning disabilities at the elementary and middle school level. In 1954 Joan married Roger Schmiege, a law school student who became a patent attorney. They had four daughters, three of whom were remarkably born on the exact same day of the year. Joan and her husband lived in the Henderson House, one of the early prairie homes built by the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. As a result, the family had consistent visitors who drove by hoping to see the house. Roger unexpectedly passed away in 1977 from a heart attack at the age of 48, while Joan's three daughters were in college. "I spent the following 40 years learning to be in charge of my own life," Joan reflected in an interview.

When Joan moved to The Pacific Northwest in 1990 after the birth of her first grand-daughter, she brought her best friend with her. This was Friar Tuck, her beloved quarter horse who remained her special companion and best friend for 31 years. In 2004 she moved with Friar to Bainbridge Island and continued cultivating a wide range of hobbies. Joan served as chairperson for the Senior Center's Wellbeing Committee and was active in the Social Committee. She also put her former career to use by volunteering as a tutor for students at Wilkes Elementary, Woodward Middle School, and for Alice Mendoza's after school program. She was an avid patron of the arts, enjoying trips to art museums, the theater, and the ballet. She was also an active member of the Spiritual Enrichment Center, where she engaged in studies and teachings from all of the world's religions. She was especially fond of Buddhism: "I would love to have become a Buddhist, but I wasn't able to sit very long." She enjoyed learning piano, delighted in her Laughter Club, and loved reading books on poetry, philosophy and spirituality. Her books
are full of underlines, stars, and thoughts, as she engaged with the authors and noted her wonderings.
Most of all, she loved spending time with her grand-daughters and her daughters' families.

Joan moved to The Wyatt House in 2010, which became a very special community for her. She helped organize weekly movies for the residents and enjoyed the various activities and gatherings offered. She loved walking to nearby restaurants for lunch and attending afternoon movies in the local cinema with friends. Driving around beautiful Bainbridge Island was one of her favorite pastimes, and she was often crowned "Pong Queen" during the Wyatt House games. Folks driving by may have seen her blowing bubbles out of her balcony, just for fun.

Joan was especially passionate about the topic of aging well. In a previous profile of her life, she stated, "I'm very fortunate...I'm blessed with good health. There is so much to share with other seniors. You keep learning from others, even at this later stage of our lives. It comes down to understanding the aging process. To get the very best you can out of it." Joan found an important guide in the book "Living Beautifully" by Pema Chdöron, which was her most precious book in her later years.

Joan departed our world on February 21st, 2022, and has left behind her sister Frances Kuhlmann, three daughters and their husbands, Susan Knell (Dale), Jean Larson (Glen), and Ellen Valek (Ed), her four beloved grand-daughters, Molly and Jenna Knell, Rhianna and Stephanie Larson, and numerous friends who loved her dearly. Joan was known for leaving thoughtful voicemails, and we have all been laughing and crying as we listen to her words of love, silly poems, and pearls of wisdom that she infused into many of them.

A small memorial is planned for Joan in July of 2022 in Arch Cape, Oregon, where Joan's family used to travel for family gatherings each summer. If you are interested in attending or contributing a poem or memory, please email Susan Knell susknell@gmail.com to be kept updated.

This obituary was written by Molly Knell, with the help of profiles and quotes shared by the Wyatt House, Bainbridge Review, Bainbridge Senior Center, and the Spiritual Enrichment Center. Our family will be forever grateful for the loving care that Joan received from the Wyatt House, the Madrona House, and Dr. Sundance Rogers and her nurse Kimberly Garber.

Arrangements are entrusted to the Cook family Funeral Home of Bainbridge Island, WA.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Joan Kathleen Schmiege, please visit our flower store.

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