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Official Obituary of

Joan Patricia (Austin) Austin-Curtis

November 2, 1936 ~ March 21, 2024 (age 87) 87 Years Old
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Joan Austin-Curtis Obituary

Joan Patricia Austin-Curtis

November 2, 1936 to March 21, 2024


Joan Patricia Austin-Curtis, 87, died March 21, 2024, peacefully at her daughter’s home from Pancreatic Cancer. Joan was preceded in death by her parents, Kenneth Austin and Marjorie Patterson Austin, her husband (Cyrus) Frederick Curtis, and two grandchildren, Justine Wirthman and Joel Wirthman. Joan is survived by her sister, Judith McNeill, her daughters Kristy Speer, Cindy (Jason) Woolsey, and Julie Dunn White. She is also survived by 7 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, one great-great grandson, and many nieces and nephews. Joan was a resident of Arizona for 45 years.

Born in Chicago Nov. 2, 1936, during the Great Depression, Joan’s family moved often in search of jobs. They lived around the Midwest and Pennsylvania, with visits to family in Florida. Joan often talked about living in a tent in Wald Lake State Park, in Michigan, for 2 years.  They met many interesting people from many walks of life while there. Joan’s parents taught her to take interest in everyone, especially people with different backgrounds and cultures. Joan continued to do that for the rest of her life. She was friendly, funny, tried to learn everyone’s name, and sought out the loneliest looking people at events to sit with and visit. She tried to find the best in every situation.

The family eventually landed in Worth, Illinois, where Joan met her first husband, Eugene (Gene) Dunn. They married in 1955 and had three daughters. Joan was an involved and loving mom. The family went camping often. Joan wrote articles for the Worth Reporter. She and the other ladies on the block got together most weekday mornings for coffee, while all the children played outside. Joan was a Sunday School teacher, a girl scout leader, room mother, and PTA member, volunteer election worker, and a member of the Eastern Star.

Joan made a brave decision to begin college in 1968, as soon as all her daughters were in school.  She majored in Physical Education. Mom got her Associates Degree at Thornton Junior College in Harvey, Illinois, and her Bachelor’s Degree at George Williams College (now Aurora College) in Downers Grove Illinois. George Williams was a pre-med college, so Joan was able to take a wide and fascinating variety of human biology courses. She loved everything to do with biology and science. Over the years, Joan taught at elementary and middle schools in Illinois, then Arizona. She became a Corrections Officer in the late 1980s so that she could teach incarcerated and homebound students. Joan also spent some time as a volunteer firefighter at Whetstone Fire District. Joan and Gene moved to Arizona in 1979. First, they owned the Prince Dunn Trailer Park in Tucson. A few years later, they owned Dunn’s Polka Dot Lounge in Whetstone.

Joan married Frederick Curtis during the early 1990s. They enjoyed traveling, especially to Pennsylvania, Hawaii, and Laughlin. They also enjoyed Fred's good cooking, laughing and corny jokes!

Joan was a fun and loving grandmother. She spent meaningful time with each grandchild, taking them out in nature, shopping at fun stores eating at kid-friendly restaurants, and having fun around the house talking and playing games. She didn’t treat them like little kids. Joan spoke to and treated them like people. She listened when they were troubled, picked them up from school if they were sick, and helped them see the good in themselves. She took out more than one grandchild in her little truck for their first driving lessons. Usually, without asking for their parents permission first! And she told them corny jokes.

Joan loved Arizona, especially the special desert ecosystems. Her favorite job was the seven years she spent as a volunteer guiding tours through the Kartchner Caverns. Joan said she never felt closer to God than when she was inside the cave. Mom was fascinated with nature, including the bats that inhabit the cave and nearby areas. She loved it when the tiny long nosed bats would visit her patio at night and drink all the nectar from the hummingbird feeders. She called them “Hummingbats.”

Joan was a Mom, a volunteer, a lifelong learner, and a good friend. Joan will be dearly missed.

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Celebration of Life
April 14, 2024

12:00 PM
Kartchner Caverns State Park
2980 AZ 90
Benson, AZ 85602


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