Joan Gillen

Joan Eileen Gillen

Sunday, November 18th, 1928 - Saturday, April 4th, 2020
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Joan Eileen Gillen
November 18, 1928 -April 4, 2020

On April 4, 2020, Joan Gillen, 91, transitioned peacefully from this life, with her daughter and cat by her side. Many thanks to Hospice of the Northwest for making it possible for her to remain comfortably in her own home, as she wished.

Joan began life November 18, 1928 in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, born to Joe and Nellie Martin. At age 19, she immigrated to California to marry the love of her life, Howard Gillen. Together they had a daughter, Sandra, and a son, Don. Their marriage lasted happily over 50 years, until Howard's death in 1999.

Although Joan's high school education was interrupted, she was an enthusiastic life-long learner: completing the GED, taking college classes of interest, becoming fluent in Spanish and French, and researching topics that intrigued her. Her special love was Literature, reading and writing, wandering through imaginative realms, especially poetry. Theater, music, cultural festivals, and art museums enchanted her.

The active outdoor life delighted her. As a child, she spent much of her time playing with her sister Dorothy in the woods. In her 20s, Joan became one of very few female scuba divers and was even featured in the local newspaper. Camping, hiking, and searching for mushrooms made up most family vacations. Once the children left home, Joan and Howard packed up the camper for a 6-month adventure through Mexico. When Sandra moved to Europe, the couple visited twice for road trips through Italy, Germany, and France. Their last trip was to Hawaii for their 50th anniversary.

When Joan and Howard retired to Mt. Vernon WA, she became an avid gardener, creating a little paradise filled with shady trees, colorful flowers, and succulent vegetables, attracting butterflies, birds, and visiting animals. Joan loved animals and was a firm advocate for their preservation and humane treatment. Throughout her life, she adopted and gave a home to many beloved cats.

Joan is preceded in death by her parents, her husband, her brother Jim Martin, her sister Patricia Matus, and her grandson Darryl Penton. She is survived by her sister Dorothy Macey, her children Sandra and Don Gillen, and her cat GoGo. We deeply love and miss our dear sister and mother. She lives forever in our hearts and in the blooms that reappear every year in little paradise.

In lieu of flowers please make a donation in Joan's name to t"a donation to any charitable organization that saves and protects animals. A local option is the Mt. Vernon Animal Shelter at https// any of the following options:
Skagit Humane Society
Portland In Defense of Animals
Tiger Haven
Alley Cat Allies
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As per Joan's wishes there will not be a Memorial Service.


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Posted at 06:24pm
Of all the moms I have known, Joan was the most caring and the most fun. Truly a delight to be around - such a beautiful soul!
My first memories of her were when I was eight when I would regularly spend the night with Sandy on the weekends. She would take silly polaroid pictures of Sandy and I at our request and delight over them with us. In the mornings she would lovingly braid my hair. She found excursions like plays to take us to, Chinatown and so many other places. Through literature she was my first introduction to culture and I saw her as a loving mentor. She truly helped to change the course of my life in such a beautiful way.
She was always so cheerful and perky, and had a little twinkle in her eye. That is how I will always remember her.
Love, Jessica

Jeff Hayden

Posted at 02:51pm
It was such a pleasure knowing Joan. She was a gentle kind-hearted lady. Over the years, I would receive beautiful cards with hand-written notes - often there would be lots of content about her beautiful cats.
When visiting Mount Vernon, there would be many tours of Joan's beloved garden . We'd always wind up on the deck with a few glasses of wine, endless discussions about the world and many laughs. And then there were fun visits to the local oyster restaurant. Joan loved that place.
I knew Joan as the gentle loving person she was. She will be missed, but I am glad she is at peace. Joan was blessed to have her loving daughter Sandra at her side for the last several years and I am sure Joan took the thoughts of that time with her to next plane of existence. Joan will always live in the hearts on many, including our beautiful feline friends here on earth and over the Rainbow Bridge.
Hugs always. I will miss you Joan, but you will always be in my thoughts.

Your friend in throughout time,
Jeff Hayden


Posted at 01:34pm
To know Joan was to love her. She was such a beautiful woman who shared her kindness and joy with everyone she met. Her memories live on and she will remain in the hearts of all who loved her. Joan cared deeply for animals, large and small. Gardening was her passion, though more then anything she loved her family. Her daughter Sandi and son Don meant the world to her. Joan sorely missed her husband, grandson and siblings who went before her. I pray Joan is once again smiling and dancing as she reunites with them. My deepest condolences to my dear friend, Sandi and her brother Don. I know how much you will miss her. I too will miss that wonderful, spunky lady I had the privilege of calling Mama Joan. 💐❤️🙏🏻🌷

Sandy Curtis

Posted at 01:29am
My thoughts and prayers are with you, Sandi and Don. You know you have my sincere sympathy during this difficult time. Love to you both,
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