Joan May Janzen
Written by The Curry Coastal Pilot   
April 05, 2013 08:41 pm

Joan May Jansen, of Smith River, Calif., passed away March 27, 2013.

Joan Janzen was born Joan May Watts Nov. 27, 1925, in London, England. She was the second child for Joseph and Florence May Watts. She had an older brother named Robert. 

As a young girl, Joan enjoyed playing behind her London home with neighborhood children. Her teen years were tumultuous as London was under attack during World War II. At age 14 she was sent to the country for her own safety.

She returned to London later and went to work as a shop clerk. Around this time, she narrowly escaped a bomb that was dropped through the roof of her home. The bomb, by some miracle, did not explode and Joan’s legacy continued. 

In 1942 at the Marble Arch in London, she met a handsome American soldier with striking blue eyes named Dean Munroy Cowley. They began courting and in 1943, two days after her 18th birthday, they were married. Joan birthed a baby boy in early 1946 whom they named Dean Munroy Cowley Jr. Three months after Dean was born Joan and the baby boarded a Liberty Ship on a voyage to join her husband in Fresno, Calif., to start a new life.  

In Fresno, they moved into a house west of town where Dean Sr. ran a grocery store. She earned her high school diploma and also gained U.S. citizenship. 

In 1948 she gave birth to her second son — John Robert Cowley. 

Joan loved to dance and to travel. She enjoyed attending dances in Fresno hosted by the Eagles Club and even danced at her grandson’s wedding at the age of 85. She traveled as often as possible, making a few trips back to visit London; she also traveled to Alaska and the Panama Canal. She liked to shop with friends. She would go window shopping to “feel the goods” as she would say. In addition, she was an animal lover and always had pets in the home. 

She did always miss England though and in her later years she moved to Smith River, Calif., because the climate reminded her of home. 

In Smith River, she was active with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, although she was not an official member. Joan was confirmed into the Church of England as a child. 

She leaves behind her son John and daughter-in-law Linda; seven grandchildren: Gregory, Amy, Laura, Jason, Sarah, Deborah, and Kristina; and nine great-grandchildren: Haley, Braydon, Averi, Joshua, Aurora, Sydnee, Tobi, Jordyn and Gemma; and her friend Tom Pugliese. 

She was preceded in death by her son Dean Jr. and former husbands Harold Landers and Herman Janzen. 

No public service is planned. 

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to Alzheimer’s Association National Office, 225 N. Michigan Ave., Fl. 17, Chicago, IL 60601. 

Submitted by the family.