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Joan Kay Wetzel, 87, died peacefully of natural causes on April 5th, 2023 with family and friends surrounding her at home in Corvallis, OR.
Joan Hathaway was born to Cloyd Heston Hathaway and Alma Zenobia (Elson) on Jan. 3rd, 1936 in Curtis Nebraska. Joan and her high school sweetheart George were married 61 years. They surprised friends and family in 2014 when they moved from Nebraska (where their multi-generational and extended family roots were strong) to the Pacific Northwest, where they took up residence with daughters Diane and LeeAnn.
To know Joan was to love her. A deeply peaceful and spiritual person, she grew up on a farm north of Curtis where she attended Pleasant Home Church, and her lifelong calling to play music began. She was a member of the Curtis United Methodist Church where she played the piano and organ and accompanied the choir. She played and sang at many funerals and weddings, sang in the Curtis Easter Pageant choir from its inception, and was a founding member of the Free Spirit Singers. Joan also gave piano lessons throughout the years. All her children remember the piano echoing in their home during the afternoon hours before supper. Joan was loving, kind, and non-judgmental, and a truly vibrant person who lived in the moment—and any moment could be filled with her laughter. She had many friends in her home seated at the family’s round oak table, and often an extra place or two was filled by folks who had no place else to go.
She attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, NE and later moved to Minneapolis, MN where George completed his Funeral Director schooling. She was active in the local Extension Club, sponsored the Methodist Youth Church group, and was the first Activities Director at Sunset Haven Nursing Home, a position she held for 14 years. A lifelong exerciser, Joan also was the leader of FROG (Fitness Reaching Older Generations) which is still thriving today. After retirement the nursing home remained important in her life, and until she moved to Oregon, she volunteered by playing music, reading aloud, and leading sing-alongs. She worked alongside George at Wetzel Funeral Home for many years, providing comfort to families at their most difficult times. She also established the Wetzel Workout Center—the business that prompted her and daughter Diane to compete at the national Olympic Style weightlifting competitions, where Joan was National Champion in her class for two years in a row. She was very proud of her weightlifting medals in addition to being a proud wife and mother. She was also a world-class baker and cook.
Joan and George leave behind three children – Diane Kay Wetzel (Katherine Hoffman) of Adair Village, Oregon, Martin Wayne Wetzel (Sharon Hammer) of Omaha, Nebraska, and LeeAnn Wetzel (Donna Strigle) of Corvallis, Oregon. She was grandmother to William (Will) Wetzel, Olivia (Livy) Wetzel, Eva Joan Wetzel, Cody Heck (Jesse Foster), Daniel Strigle (Cece Borries-Strigle) and great-grandmother to Aurelia Strigle. She leaves behind several dear nieces and nephews and a wide-ranging extended family of friends.
She was proceeded in death by her parents, husband George, and brothers Wayne and Turner Hathaway.
A memorial service will be held later this year in Curtis, Nebraska.
Memorials in Joan’s name maybe sent to Epworth Village, 2119 Division Ave, P.O. Box 503, York, NE. 68467
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