Joanne “McNamara” Carlson was born to Joseph and Mary Victoria in Emmetsburg, Iowa, on July 23, 1931. She passed away at Providence St. John’s in Santa Monica on September 1.
She was from the Irish side of a small town in Iowa. As a child, she loved to fish. She remembered making cane poles to catch flatheads. Confirmed at St. Thomas Catholic Church, she was a lifelong Catholic. When she was 10, her mother died. Joanne was the middle child with two sisters, Mary Jane and Therese. Joanne learned to drive a semi to help with the family business—she kept a commercial driver’s license as long as she could—and kept her mother’s letters close all of her life.
At 17, nuns from her high school lent her $40, which added to a $10 purse she won for an essay titled, “Peace, with Honor, for America.” That money helped pay for classes at St. Joseph Mercy School of Nursing in Sioux City, Iowa, where she learned her vocation. She moved a couple of times but loved California and established herself in Canoga Park. Later, she earned a master’s in nursing from the University of Redlands. She was a nursing instructor for the MDTA. She loved education, kept course catalogs at her house and took many classes well into her 80s.
Her favorite word was pulchritude. She would see a beautiful thing about someone and talk to them about it. Whether it was someone’s dog, their necklace, their hair or if they had seen the two small birds in the birdbath in the garden, she let beauty be known to those around her.
She focused on others. Her sisters, nieces and nephews, and their children counted on her when they were teenagers, young adults and grown-ups. She was a confidant. A conversation with her could help loved ones correct their path; Aunt or Auntie Joanne listened while offering no judgment. Her paintings adorn their homes. Many of the women have chosen to work in the medical field. Almost everyone in her family has lived with her at some point in the last 50 years.
She loved chocolate and eating sweets around midnight. Her neighbors loved and doted on her. She always wanted to go out—to a good party, to eat, to see a movie or get a coffee—and she would always squirrel away part of her entrée for her pets at home. Dogs and cats loyally watched for her, and she took care to earn their devotedness.
Joanne married Clif Carlson in 2000 and moved to the Palisades. She thought he was the most wonderful man she had ever met, and, though he died in 2015, she was enamored with him until her death. She was preceded in death by her father, mother, sister Mary Jane, dear friends Elaine, Brooke and Sister Alicia.
She is survived by her sister Therese Kaiser, a large family, Lottie Shumate and many friends. Memorial services will be held at Corpus Christi Church on September 24 at 11 a.m.
When asked if she would go back and change anything about her life, she replied, “No. If you lived your life over, what makes you think you’d meet the same people, or live in the same places?”
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