Joan Fraser could find the bright side of any situation. The ultimate proof of this came just days before the end, when she told visitors: "I'm so happy I have the same CLSC health team that Gilles had. I know them well and they're wonderful people."
Gilles was her partner of 25 years; she and their eight-year-old son, Theo, had lost him not four months earlier.
A professional graphic designer and an expert calligrapher, Joan was visually acute from early childhood. "Even before kindergarten, I'd watch my mother write and I'd imitate her actions - I'd draw page after page of loops and squiggles," she once said.
Later, she was keen on the arcana of typography and could explain typesetting methods that had all but disappeared before she began her career.
Joan was a fast learner. When computers came to graphic design, she was an early adopter and was soon helping others understand the Mac and grasp the fine points of page-layout software. But her fast learning wasn't restricted to her own field. Nor even to terra firma. When her brother-in-law became one of Canada's astronauts, Joan learned all about NASA's astronauts and could tell you who had flown which mission in which year and what their title had been. She loved to describe the two launches she had witnessed and the night-before dinner with the crew that she had attended.
She was industrious, driven, passionate about life. In her urban, professional circle, the automatic answer to "How have you been?" is always "Busy." In her case, that was always true. She was ever curious, always learning, rarely idle. Between keeping in touch with family, nurturing treasured friendships and servicing clients, Joan left little time for Joan. When Theo was born, Joan somehow found even more hours in the day. She adored her son and blossomed in motherhood. She was loving and patient and committed.
Joan was brave. She looked life square in the eye. She was dealt some terrible cards, yet never flinched. She learned at 40 that she had rheumatoid arthritis. The news didn't slow her quick laugh.
When she and Gilles decided to part, her practical attitude was, "He and Theo and I will manage." When Gilles was diagnosed with cancer and given but a short time to live, Joan told him, "Come back and live with me and Theo."
She and Gilles grew closer than they had ever been, and married. She managed to usher him out of this life while remaining a calm, wise, loving beacon for Theo.
When she learned of her own cancer, she turned to siblings Cathy and Roy to plan Theo's next chapters.
Joan was a beautiful, intelligent, very special woman. She had a lovely voice and a lively sense of humour. Many will miss her.
Gerry L'Orange is Joan's friend.