Joan Franklin had a way of showing she cared.

She was a nurse, a nurturer and a compassionate listener who saw the worth in everyone.

March 13, 2002

The Orange County Register


Unlike her husband, Don, who charged around from one point of interest to another, or her daughter, Deborah, who had to read each historical marker, Joan Franklin, while visiting Ireland not long ago, just sat in a park, watching and chatting with people.

At the end of the day, she knew as much as - if not more than - her husband and daughter combined about the town they were visiting.

Historical buildings had their place, to be sure, but for Joan, it was the people who counted most - and from whom she learned the kinds of things she wanted to know.

Joan cared deeply about the human condition - how people lived, what they thought, what brought them joy or fear. She had a gentle way of drawing them out, getting them to share their thoughts and ideas, and a persistent way of defending the rights of the underdog.

Power and prestige didn't impress Joan much. It was humanity that touched her and the knowledge that there is extraordinary worth in every human being.

She was a nurse, a nurturer, a compassionate listener and a subtle adviser who could dispense advice as painlessly as she could administer a flu shot. And she was known for her painless shots.

Joan was 69 when she died of cancer March 6.

She was born Joan Rolleen Elliott in tiny Blue Mound, Kan. She was 11 when her mother died and her father moved the family to Parsons, Kan., where she graduated high school in 1951.

She obtained a nursing degree at the University of Kansas Medical Center, where she later worked as a nurse, and in 1956 married Don Franklin, with whom she had been friends since seventh grade.

Don was in the Marines at the time, in flight school in Florida. Later, after stints in Corpus Christi, Texas, and in Japan, he was stationed at El Toro. They bought a new tract home on 15th Street in Santa Ana and eventually moved to Floral Park. Don became a successful real estate agent.

While their five children were young, Joan was a stay-at-home mom, instilling in them the values she held dear: honesty, integrity, compassion and kindness.

Joan encouraged her children to stand tall, fight for what they believed in and stand up for the little guy. She wanted them to take risks.

"Just go do it!" she would encourage a child waffling about a new life adventure.

She never raised her voice. Quite the contrary. The quieter she was, the more trouble you were in. Joan could go silent for days at a time when she was truly angry - which wasn't often.

Joan was slow to anger, but not afraid of confrontation, which usually was on someone else's behalf.

She was generally genial, warm and ready with a hug. She had a knack for drawing people - even total strangers - out of their reticence to talk.

Her children's friends came to the house just to confide in Joan long after the children had moved out.

She was especially comfortable with people one on one. Cocktail parties and large social gatherings were not where she felt at home.

But there were always people in the house - her many friends, who came by to chat, the children's friends, a neighbor who came for a cup of sugar and then stayed for dinner. There was always room for guests at Joan's table.

Family vacations found the family in Yosemite Valley. Joan loved the wilderness and could sit for hours watching birds and listening to the wind whisper through the pines.

Her children describe her as a news and politics junkie. She arose almost with the sun to read three newspapers before work and was horrified to learn that months after moving out, one son still hadn't subscribed to a paper.

When her youngest son entered high school, Joan returned to nursing, working at the Orange County Health Department in child health and travel immunizations. She loved being a nurse.

Working for her community was vital to Joan, who was active in the Assistance League, PEO and Ebell Club.

And she never missed an election.

The day before she died, medicated and in pain, she was filling out her absentee ballot and making sure someone would deliver it to her polling place.