Cover photo for Joan Patterson's Obituary
1931 Joan 2024

Joan Patterson

October 12, 1931 — April 5, 2024


Joan "JoAnn" Patterson, 92, of Vermillion SD passed away peacefully, surrounded by family at Sanford Vermillion Care center on Friday, April 5, 2024. Funeral Services will be held at 11:00 am on Saturday May 18th at the Vermillion United Church of Christ with family present an hour before the service. Burial will be held on Monday, May 20th at Oakwood Cemetery in Mount Morris Ill. 

Joan Patterson (nee Alice Joan Fitts) was born in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 1931. She spent her childhood on the farm, feeding the ducks, decorating the pony, and cuddling kittens and puppies.  In 1950 she took the train to Fort Worth, Texas, where she attended Texas Christian University. In 1955 she graduated with a double major in Social Work and Religion, and what she jokingly referred to as her “MRS. Degree”—she was engaged to be married to John Patterson, a seminary student from Illinois.   

Being a preacher’s wife with four young children kept Joan running at full-tilt for many years. Another place at the table could always be set for John’s colleague, a child’s friend, or a stranger in need. The refrigerator door, like the front door, opened easily. At various times she played the piano or organ for church, directed children’s choirs and Christmas pageants, taught Sunday School, distributed surplus groceries, delivered meals on wheels, hosted parties and chaperoned camping trips for youth groups. Her children grew up mostly in clothes that she made herself, and they fell asleep to her nightly piano practice: Chopin, Debussy, Bach, Mendelson, and hymns for Sunday.

With the first three children in elementary school, Joan returned to college in 1967 to complete a teaching certificate. This began a long career in teaching, beginning with second graders.   Soon she specialized in helping children who had difficulty learning to read. She approached this work with her characteristic curiosity, tenacity and openness to new ideas. Children in Southern Iowa, South Dakota and North central Illinois were taught to read, and write by Mrs. Patterson.  In 1981 she took a break from children to administer the Yellow Bird Senior’s Center in Oregon, Illinois for 2 years.   In 1982 she received her Certificate in Special Education from Northern Illinois University, and she went on to teach for another decade before retiring.  

 Joan and John spent their lives in the rural Midwest:  Bethany, Illinois (1959-1962), Albia, Iowa (1962-1965), Humeston, Iowa (1965-1971), Platte, South Dakota (1971-1982), Oregon, Illinois (1982-1990), and Freeport, Illinois (1990-1995) before retiring to Yankton, South Dakota.  Joan moved to Vermillion, South Dakota after the death of her husband John in 2004.  

 Joan’s greatest pride was her children. Her children return the complement: we are all immensely proud of, and grateful for our mother.  She taught us the values of kindness, fair play, listening to all sides of a story, and wondering at the beauty of the world around us.  She taught us to respect the dignity of every person, and to never embarrass someone who was in need of kindness.  She taught us to take care of the natural world, and to read every historical marker along a road trip. Mostly, she wanted us to remember to “be curious”— to welcome new learning to the very end of life.  

 Joan never stopped learning even as she did a long slow dance with Parkinson’s Disease that lasted over 30 years.    In her late years she was a model of courage and grace in the face of tremendous adversity.  

Carrying the honor of our mother’s legacy into the future, with much gratitude, are her children:  Susan (Curt) Jopling of Vermillion, South Dakota, Stephen (Deb) Patterson of Salem, Oregon, Serena (Monika Grünberg) Patterson   of Courtenay, British Columbia, and Stuart (Kate Sullivan) Patterson of Rockford Illinois; twelve grandchildren: Lindsay (Chris) Hovden of Yankton, SD, Brady (Alejandra Mesta) Efting of Denver, CO, Casey Efting of Independence, MO, John Budelai Patterson and Sophia Patterson of Salem, OR,  Ethan Patterson of Dekalb, IL, Laura (Andrew Piffer) Robbins of Montreal, Quebec, Tanner Patterson Grünberg of Victoria, BC,  Grace Patterson Grünberg of Courtenay, BC, Melissa Allen of Hornick IA, Dallas Jopling of Vermillion SD and Dustin Jopling of Sioux Falls SD; and seven great-grandchildren: Maddox, Myles and Emma Hovden, Luka Efting, Jack and Hank Jopling and Hannah Allen. 








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Saturday, May 18, 2024

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