Dec. 22, 1927 — Jan. 30, 2014
Carolyn Joan (Rader) Wilson, 86, of Delta, B.C., passed away peacefully at Delta Hospital on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
Joan was born in Walla Walla on Dec. 22, 1927, to Ralph and Ruth Rader, who farmed and ranched in the Walla Walla area from the 1920s into the 1960s. Joan and her sister Harriet lived year-round at the home ranch on Lewis Peak Road in the foothills of the Blue Mountains until school age, after which they spent the school months in Walla Walla with their grandparents. Joan learned early to ride horseback, work cattle, drive farm trucks and prepare meals for the large harvest crews of that era. When she could, she would take a bedroll and explore on horseback, often with only a farm dog trotting along for protection. Joan’s upbringing, with the Great Depression and WWII as backdrops, fostered traits that would define Joan and serve her well — valuing hard work, resourcefulness and a sense of adventure.
Joan graduated from Walla Walla High School in 1945, and from Washington State University with a bachelor of arts in history in 1949. She had very fond memories of WSU and the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority where she made lifelong friends. After graduation, Joan drove with some of those friends to Alaska, decided to stay, and found work in Fairbanks first with the U.S. Air Force at Ladd Field and then with Pan American Airlines. At a curling bonspiel in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Joan met her future husband, Kenneth Wilson. Ken had been an Royal Canadian Air Force pilot in WWII and was managing the United Keno Hill Mine at the time. After meeting only several times, they married in 1951 and remained together until Ken’s death in 1994.
For 22 years, Joan and Ken lived in a succession of remote mining communities across northern Canada, including Keno Hill, Yukon Territory; Rankin Inlet, Northwest Territories; Chibougamau, Quebec; and Stewart, British Columbia. Joan threw her considerable energies into making each new community a home. She was a good mother and friend, an excellent cook and hostess for innumerable gatherings; a knowledgeable gardener; a lover of wildlife and the outdoors; a skier, curler and hiker; a bridge player and an excellent shot with a rifle. Joan loved art, especially Oriental. She had a sharp eye for order and style and, even in the most remote and primitive locations, kept her standards high.
In 1973 the family settled near Vancouver, B.C., and, after decades of living in company houses, Joan had a home of her own with a beautiful view of surrounding farmland and mountains. She took a job in the payroll office of a large fish cannery on the Fraser River where she worked for about 10 years. Joan served on a wide variety of community organizations over the years. She was a strong advocate for preservation of farmland and wildlife habitat and could often be found hiking the fields and beaches of the area, binoculars and bird book in hand. When Joan’s sister Harriet retired to Bellingham, the Rader sisters would often explore the Northwest together, invariably with their Labrador retrievers in tow.
Joan will be dearly missed by her family and friends. She is survived by sons Ralph Wilson (Rosemary) of Richland, Colin Wilson (Lauren) of Vancouver, B.C.; and by grandchildren Benjamin, Rebecca, Solomon, Brent and Kirsten. Joan is preceded in death by her husband, Kenneth Wilson; parents, Ralph and Ruth Rader of Walla Walla; and sister, Harriet Allen of Bellingham, Wash.
Burial will occur at a private ceremony at Mountain View Cemetery in Walla Walla.