Joan Evangeline (Wickstrom) Manchester was born on June 9, 1938 to Alyce (Thomain) Wickstrom and Edwin Wickstrom. She was the third child of four for the couple. Richard and Diane are Joan’s older siblings, and many years later David would complete their family.
As a 4th generation California native, Joan was fiercely proud of her family’s rich California history. Her ancestors were actual gold miners who came during the California Gold Rush. Her grandfather, Joseph Wickstrom, helped build the Golden Gate Bridge, and her beloved father, Edwin Wickstrom, was the Assistant Fire Chief of Menlo Park.
Known in her youth as “Joanie,” she never met a stranger because she had a gift at turning strangers into friends. It is a great testimony to her that she had many lifelong friends that began all the way back in elementary school. She continued building community as she attended Menlo Atherton High School and Foothill College, and worked at Sylvania for a time before devoting herself to being a full-time mother.
Not as well-educated and accomplished as her older brother Richard, and sister Diane, who she deeply respected, or perhaps not as artistically skilled as her younger brother David, Joan at times felt insecure in comparison. However, what matters most is often not measurable externally. Joan was gifted with insight to see beyond the surface to understand people, and therefore made a huge impact in many lives. What she lacked in external accomplishments she more than made up for in heart.
While just about everyone would describe Joan as “sweet,” she was also equally feisty, with an independent free-spirit. She was known for her witty retort, “When pigs fly!” and was always ready to offer her opinion. Boldly honest, you never wondered where she stood. When her parents sadly divorced, this inner strength she possessed helped her to raise her younger brother, David, when her mother wasn’t available. David shared, “Joan was the best part of my childhood.”
Even though Joan wasn’t raised in a religious family, she attended church on her own, and growing up was an active member of the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. She attributed her spiritual inclinations to the prayers of her dear grandmother, Julia Patton. It was at Menlo Presbyterian that Joan met her future husband, Mel Manchester, in a single young adult group called “Kayaks.” They enjoyed camping and other outdoor adventures, and were later married on June 10, 1962. Three years later they had their firstborn, Julie, and 2 1/2 years after that, Susan. They were married for almost 50 years, until Mel's death in 2010.
Joan was an excellent mother, who made life an adventure. She taught her girls a love for the outdoors through trips to various parks, nature field trips, and camping at Sawyer’s Bar each summer. She involved her daughters in various art and craft projects, brought them along in her hunt for garage sale treasures, and always made holidays super special. In fact, she made holidays so fun that one of Susan's dearest friends, Tricia, would come over every Christmas and considered Joan a “second mom." She wasn’t the only one. Many nieces and nephews also expressed how she was their favorite aunt.
Her joy and zeal for life was evident not just in her love of adventure, enjoyment of holidays, and creative pursuits, but in how whole-heartedly she approached everything she did. A fiercely competitive card player at family gatherings, Easter-egg-hunt champion (everyone knew to look out for Joan), she was still swinging on a rope swing into a lake in Yosemite while in her 60’s. Joan lived life to the full.
She maintained her child-like heart, not an easy thing to do, especially after the death of both her daughter, Julie, who passed away in 1999, and later Mel. Joan's heart was possibly best exemplified in her love for children. She volunteered in the church nursery when her girls were young, became a preschool teacher, and later ran a day care in her home. There were no kids she loved more than her two beautiful grandchildren, Juliana and David. She was fiercely proud of them both and loved being “Grandma Joan.”
Her compassionate heart led her to be involved in numerous charities such as Stanford Children's Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, and ChildSHARE just to name a few, where she always was willing to help anyone in need. Her best friend, Janet Jara, shared that Joan was always a good listener and a very real, genuine person who would do anything to help someone else. Her heart would always shine through.
Joan had a deep love for God and her pastor in Austin confided that she was one of his favorites. At the Conservatory in Austin, where she has lived the last 6 years, the mail lady remarked, “Joan was always surprised that I remembered her name, but of course I did because Joan was one of my favorite people there.” Even when Susan's chiropractor, who only met Joan 4 times, heard of her passing, he got tears in his eyes. He shared he remembers the twinkle in her eye indicating she was the best kind of trouble, a real firecracker, and what an impact she had made. Joan's nephew, Terry Manchester, stated it best, “She showed a love and fullness of life, the ability to follow her dreams. We should all be envious of a life well-lived.”
After battling with pancreatic cancer, Joan passed away peacefully in her sleep on July 11, 2020. She was laid to rest on July 20 at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Los Altos, CA, with her husband Mel and daughter Julie. Joan is survived by her daughter Susan, son-in-law Joseph, grandchildren Juliana and David, siblings Richard, Diane, David, and extended family all whom she greatly loved.