It is with great sadness that I relay the news of the passing of Sun columnist, Joan Huguenard. Surrounded by family and friends, Joan died on Monday, July 30 after a brief battle with cancer. Incredibly strong until the very end, Joan wouldn’t give her disease any dignity, steadfastly stating, “It’s the last diagnosis anyone wants to hear, and I won’t honor it by mentioning its name.” Having made the decision some years back to never submit to chemotherapy should the need arise, she chose a holistic approach to treatment, something that had worked wonders for her when other health challenges presented themselves. Joan left Sonoma for a short while to be with family in Oklahoma. She returned to the town she loved in early July to be close to friends, her trusted doctors and additional family members.
Stubborn and strong, Joan planned on beating her cancer and was reticent in letting friends know she was sick, preferring to procrastinate just this one time. For me, it wasn’t until her column didn’t arrive last week that I started to worry. Religiously, her column would arrive on time from the four corners of the earth, week in and week out. This was an unprecedented occurrence and it was with absolute shock that I was learned the reason –Joan was ill and declining rapidly. We fudged her column last week and started fielding the many calls that came in wondering what had happened in Joan’s boilerplate space. And now, I’m left with a hole – in my heart, in the paper, and for many of us, in our community.
It has been my honor to know Joan for the past three-plus years. As one of The Sun’s founding columnists, her weekly opinion piece, jaunty photo at the top, has always been widely read in our pages as well as on our web site. Her followers are far and wide – in fact, worldwide due to her many travels.
And travel she did. Joan had a zest for learning that seemed never to wane and took her around the globe. She challenged her readers to reach – to get outside their comfort zones in terms of both emotion and geography. She was always up for a challenge herself, most recently traveling to Namibia on just a few weeks notice to teach orphaned children and then moving to Oklahoma to help raise three of her granddaughters. She rarely said no, she rose to any occasion, even when it included pushing The Sun’s stalled parade float one July 4.
Joan and I still had our differences when it came to some of her columns. But with her background in non-violent communication, she always got us to a place of compromise – something that worked for both of us.
But I realized something when sitting down to write this tribute and that is how very little I actually know about this incredible woman. Most of what I know I’ve learned from editing her columns each week. Only once or twice did we get a chance to sit down over coffee to talk and typically those meetings were about work – not really about life.
So I invite you readers, her followers and many fans to send me your thoughts on Joan. She impacted many lives, usually for good although not always because she did like to stir the proverbial pot.
Sadly, cancer took Joan in just 12 very short days. But in typical Joan fashion, she was elated that people were learning about hospice through her experience. Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to remind readers that this weekend is Relay for Life at the SVHS track. I’m certain Joan would be no less delighted if we all took a turn on the track in her honor.
Unafraid to die and upbeat until the end, family members said Joan went out in a blaze of glory and, about an hour after her passing, even noticed a sly little smile on her face. Apparently Joan is on to her next big adventure. God speed.