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Cedar Mill News

Volume 16, Issue 7
July 2018


Joan Gunness

Joan Gunness

Joan Gunness was a North Dakota girl; born in Bismarck to John and Jean Gunness. She fondly told stories of weekends and endless summers in the small farming town of Gilby, home to her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and childhood friends. Hitched up to her older sibs, Marget and Clark, Joan explored the barns, shelter belts, and ditches of cool water on hot summer days. She rode bikes and horses around the little town of 300 with the rush of youthful freedom in her veins. Years later, as it became clear that her last breath was drawing near, Joan asked that her last earthly remains be scattered in the very same shelter belt she explored as a child.

When Joan was 10, her father, an oil executive, took a job in Denver, Colorado. Joan immersed herself in gymnastics at that time and witnessed her dad battle cancer till his untimely end just four years later. Joan finished out high school in Denver at which point she entered college at the Fort Collins campus of Colorado State. There, Joan met her lifelong friend, Gayle, and in the years following Joan and Gayle never failed to rendezvous on the windswept beaches of Oregon to share their lives and laugh.

Following her graduation from CSU, Joan joined a dance troupe in Jackson, Mississippi, where over the next 10 years she deepened her love for dance with remarkable people, married Mount Burns, and gave birth to her son, Dylan Burns. Not long after, Joan was accepted to the graduate dance program at the University of Oregon and in a re-purposed milk truck, lit out with her family along the Oregon Trail to begin life in the Great West.

In Portland, Joan found opportunities teaching dance, theater, and creative movement to children of all ages from Forest Grove to East Portland. It wasn't long before the lure of a little blueberry farm tucked into a glade called Bonny Slope had the family once again packing the wagon for a new home in the country. Soon Joan's second child, Jordan was born, and there at Bonny Slope Blueberries, Joan raised her family and cultivated the farm until her recent passing over 30 years later.

Joan and Mount divorced not long after moving to Bonny Slope, but years later Joan's path intersected with John Russell, a man who truly made her happy for her last years. Living life together, both the farm and their marriage flourished, much to the delight of family and friends.

One of the many local communities touched by Joan’s special gift of teaching was Sunset Athletic Club. Joan taught yoga, meditation, and mindfulness workshops there for over 12 years. She had tremendous respect for her students and the courage and humility they demonstrated every time they showed up to class to learn something new and grow. A loving and devoted teacher, Joan made each student feel seen and heard and most of all nurtured.

All who knew Joan will agree that they were given a gift—a lasting, precious gift—of light and love that touched the world and all living beings in her presence. Joan's immortal spirit will always live in our hearts.


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Published monthly by Cedar Mill News LLC
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291
© 2018