Longtime Pacific Palisades resident Joan Marion Dolden died Friday, September 14, at age 83.
Joan was born July 18, 1935, in Jersey City, New Jersey, to Dorothy and Stephen Lewis. As a young girl, she moved with her parents, older brother and younger sister to Springfield, Massachusetts.
In the mid-1950s, Joan’s family made another move to the Philippines. After a short stint in Manila, Joan traveled solo to West Los Angeles to live with relatives; soon after she arrived, she took a job as an operator for the General Telephone Company.
It was around then that the East Coast transplant met and fell in love with Roy Dolden (January 18,1932-January 13, 2000), a quintessential California surfer-sailor-skier born and raised in Santa Monica. They made a striking pair, Roy with his blonde hair, blue-eyed boyish good looks alongside Joan’s thick dark haired and brown-eyed beauty.
After a whirlwind courtship, Joan and Roy married in 1960 at Our Lady of Sorrows in Santa Barbara with a reception at the Del Mar Hotel. In 1963, after the birth of their first two children, Clare and Stephen, the family moved to the Pacific Palisades’ Alphabet Streets where Joan lived until her death. There, they had daughters Stacey and Diane.
Besides her husband and children, the centerpiece of Joan’s life was a lifelong group of close-knit Palisadian friends who gathered weekly, traveled and celebrated every milestone together for 50-plus years. Many of their lively gatherings included Joan’s delicious home-cooked meals. An accomplished cook, she regularly explored the Los Angeles restaurant scene, always looking to expand her gourmet skills.
In 2008, after suffering a stroke, she became a beloved member of a group of fellow stroke survivors who met weekly at UCLA Medical Center. After her passing, many in the group expressed how they were drawn to her generosity, empathy and kindness.
Joan faced her limitations with determination and her trademark humor. She was masterful at finding and sending greeting cards that were sometimes irreverent and always laugh out loud funny.
Social by nature and fiercely independent, Joan was driven to keep moving, enjoy her family and friends, and remain interested and involved in everything around her. She was an excellent listener and sought-after sounding board. An avid newspaper reader, she stayed relevant and embraced new things, like the Palisades Village, which opened just eight days after she died.
Joan’s adventurous and curious spirit meant frequent travels—she spent time in Australia, ventured to Italy and Mexico, explored England and Ireland on a walking tour, and visited Hong Kong, Germany and Austria. Just last summer she took a road trip to Soquel in Northern California for her grandson’s wedding.
In her professional career, Joan worked as an analyst for a downtown LA fashion firm in the ’80s and later as an office administrator for Graph Aids, an art supply retail store where she worked with longtime friends and first Palisades neighbors, Frank and Fern Festa.
Joan was a culture buff who loved theater, movies, books and music. Until her death, she was part of a monthly Palisades book club. She was also a sports fan with her TV frequently tuned to Dodgers, Lakers and pro/college football games.
She is survived by her four children—Clare Cianciarulo (married to John) of Mission Viejo, Stephen Dolden of Novato, California, Stacey Dolden (married to Cindy Foster) of Signal Hill, California, and Diane Dolden (married to Stefano Drei) of Oceano, California; and three grandchildren: J.B. Cianciarulo (married to Melissa) of Seattle, Blake Cianciarulo of Brooklyn and Quinn Dolden, born November 20, 2017, to Stephen and his partner Jenny Bullock. She is also survived by her brother, Thomas Lewis of Springfield, Massachusetts, and sister, Linda Watson of Florence, Oregon.
Joan was a devoted member of Corpus Christi Church where she regularly attended mass.
A memorial service and celebration of Joan’s life will be held Saturday, October 27, at 10 a.m. at Corpus Christi Church with a reception to follow at a private residence.
Joan will be greatly missed and remembered forever by the many people she touched. In lieu of flowers, contributions to honor Joan may be made to the Pacific Palisades Library Association.