Joan Lorraine (Franklin) Christianson, 74, returned to The Great Spirit on Aug. 1, 2020.
Joan was a lifelong resident of both Whatcom and Skagit counties. She was adopted at birth by Wesley and Gertrude (De Bondt) Franklin. Mom’s childhood and teenage years were filled with animals, farming, large extended family gatherings and strong scholastic achievement. Our grandparents moved to Skagit County in the 1950s, where Mom continued to thrive under our grandparents’ loving care. She began her sophomore year with promise, then her first of many mental crises struck. Despite missing most of her sophomore year, she graduated on time, with honors in 1964 from Sedro-Woolley High School. She studied journalism at Skagit Valley College and landed a reporting job at the Skagit Valley Herald.
Having a dear Franklin cousin out on Sandy Point, Mom came to spend more time in Whatcom County working at the sale barn in the office. Eventually Joan married Albert McMillen, a longtime acquaintance of the De Bondt and Franklin families. Joan and Albert built a successful trucking/hay business on part of the Johnson/McMillen property, Albert McMillen Hay Co. The family home on the Noon Road was designed by Mom with the help of her cousin’s business, Romberg Construction. Largely due to mom’s mental health problems, our parents divorced when we were young, but so long as Mom was stable, she was welcome here. It was very hard though, because often Mom was not stable and disappeared for long periods.
Enter the love of our Mom’s life, Clifford “Chris” Christianson! They met in a bar and were married less than two weeks later! They stopped drinking and never looked back. With Chris’s strong, firm support, Mom was accurately diagnosed as bi-polar 1 and strictly followed her psychiatrist’s orders. Mom and Chris worked hard, she at Old National Bank in Renton and he as a heavy construction foreman pipe layer. They moved to Shelton where Chris’s family lived. Mom realized another dream of hers to build a cedar log cabin with Chris. Tragedy struck again when Chris was diagnosed with cancer and died a few months later.
Mom was heartbroken, but she rallied knowing we needed her, and she came back to Whatcom County. She supported me in my dream of going to university and she supported Bertina in her equestrian activities. Our mom’s warm example taught us to accept others, treating all with kindness and respect. As our families grew, mom regularly commuted between Burlington, where she lived with our Grandma Franklin, and Everson, where we lived. Mom preferred outdoor work and horse care to the canning, freezing and indoor work, so often both Mom and Grandma would load up into Mom’s pick-up to travel to Everson. Mom was thrilled to have a second grandson, Relijah. Arianne was the oldest grandchild (from Bertina and I), but Relijah and Grandma Joan had a special set of adventures all their own. The true joys of Mom’s life were her family, friends, and animals.
Mom shared a home with Marcy Helm for nine years. Theirs was a true friendship, and they both loved their pets. Mom’s latest addition was Johni, a Japanese Chin, who Marcy adopted. With Marcy’s encouragement, Mom found information about her birth family by taking the 23 and Me test. Mom wrote and called one sister, and traveled to Sacramento in 2018 (with Marcy) to visit her oldest sister. Darlene, Mom’s birth mother, appears to have been bi-polar as well, although it was not diagnosed. I consider Darlene’s decision to give up her baby exceptionally loving, wise and selfless.
Joan Lorraine Christianson is survived by sisters Dixie Sills of Sacramento, CA, Ginger Jorgensen of Kelso, WA; daughters Lorraine Franklin McMillen (Gary Maupin) of the family home in Everson, Bertina Marie Gossit (Mike) of Hamilton; stepson Richard Christianson (Susan Jean); grandchildren Kimberly Sue Christianson (Paul Tice), Michael Alan Christianson (Carrie Lynne) of Lynden, Sadie Sandrea Christianson, Arianne Rose (Rauch) Heeringa (Shane) of Everson, Relijah Equin Thomas McMillen (Paulette Shea) of Seattle, Annika Bryn Rauch of Tempe, AZ, and Athena Jeanne Rauch of the family home; great-grandchildren Benjamin Christianson, Jacob Christianson, Luke Christianson (both of Lynden), Cruz Rodriguez, Gavino Rodriguez and Anayah Tovar; great-granddaughter Hailey Rose Heeringa; great-great-granddaughter Grey Audree Christianson; numerous beloved relatives from all her families, countless friends and professionals who both learned from and taught her.
Joan Lorraine was predeceased by an infant daughter, her parents, both of her husbands, stepchildren Harvey and Kathy Christianson; siblings Phillip Jorgensen and Darwin Addleman; many De Bondt-Scholten, Franklin, McMillen and Christianson relatives; many pets, but especially a Chihuahua named Odie.
The family thanks the staff at Avamere Healthcare for their loving care of Mom, and all the friends and family for the cards, flowers, visits and even window visits after COVID hit. We are grateful for the outpouring of love, support and care for our mom and grandma. It is clear she will be missed by many.
Memorial contributions are suggested to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 800 E. Chestnut St., Suite 1C, Bellingham, WA 98225; or Whatcom Hospice, 2800 Douglas Ave., Bellingham, WA 98225.
Friends and family are invited for the graveside service in Greenacres Memorial Park at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12.
Funeral arrangements are entrusted to Gillies Funeral Home and Cremation Services.