JoAnn Keeney

JoAnn, Thanksgiving 2005


JoAnn Keeney, née Roberts, passed from this life Saturday, July 28, 2012, following heart surgery in Tacoma, with her loving family by her side. She leaves husband Kurt, son Bob and his wife Valerie, and daughter Molly; brother Bill Roberts and his partner Peggy Goshgarian, sister MaryLou Vanderburg, niece Nelli and nephew Charles, and many loving cousins and friends.  She was preceded in death by her mother Martha in 1999, father Bruce in 2010, and brother-in-law Craig Vanderburg in 1994.

JoAnn was born to Bruce J. and Martha A. Roberts (nee Heitsmith) on August 3, 1943, in San Francisco, California. When JoAnn was less than six months old, her beloved Daddy Bruce was called to war by the Marines, sailed away for training in Hawaii and later stormed Iwo Jima with the 5th Marine Division. During the war, mother and daughter lived in La Jolla, California, with a Roberts’s family nurse named Auntie Guy.

Bruce returned home in 1945 and the little family relocated to Arcata, where Bruce taught at Humboldt State College. Bill joined the family January 13, 1947, and MaryLou arrived September 18, 1949. A year later, they moved to student housing at Stanford University in Palo Alto, where Bruce enrolled in a doctorate program. Around 1952 the family moved to C Street in Redwood City, and in 1956 to Parkside Avenue in San Jose, where Bruce began a teaching career at San Jose State College.

Lieutenant JoAnn B Roberts


JoAnn graduated from Willow Glen High School in 1961 and enrolled at San Jose State, from which she graduated in 1966. She joined the Air Force on August 21, 1966, and spent a year at Duke University in North Carolina completing a dietetic internship on the AF’s dime. A year at March AFB in California followed by two at Elmendorf, Alaska, as a Registered Dietician in Air Force hospitals, and Captain Roberts was discharged August 31, 1970. She married Captain Kurtis W. Keeney, on September 12, 1970, in Alaska.

She was very proud of an early acquisition, a dark green 1968 VW Karmann Ghia which she named Mergatroyd, or Merg for short. It had been to North Carolina and now Alaska and then followed her around for the rest of her life. In January 1971, the couple packed their belongings in the pickup and traveled down the Alaska Highway, then meandered around the U.S. for a few months before settling briefly in Klamath Falls, Oregon. They moved to Eugene in late summer 1971, where Kurt continued higher education at The University of Oregon and JoAnn obtained employment as a supervisory dietician in the university’s food service department.

Kurt completed his studies in 1973 and they were ready to start a family. Bob was born on March 29, 1974, and Molly on October 23, 1977. In 1979, Kurt’s work necessitated the move to Federal Way. The family enjoyed boating on Puget Sound, trips to visit relatives, and jaunts to the Washington and Oregon coasts, where Kurt often fished in the surf while JoAnn sat on the beach or jetty reading. An avid reader and bibliophile her entire life, she particularly enjoyed the years she worked in the King County Library System in Federal Way, and delighted in multi-tasking by listening to books on tape while she plied her needlework.

JoAnn loved to travel, including trips to Japan, England and Mexico. The family has fond memories of time spent with her parents and brother Bill at her parents’ place on the Klamath River in northern California. They hiked, backpacked, and camped in the wilderness, with or without a string of mules and horses, and enjoyed communing with nature. JoAnn was awed by the magnificence of nature and the universe. She possessed a keen mind and avid curiosity, infectious smile and a wonderful sense of humor.

JoAnn in Hawaii


For the past 15 years, they reacquainted themselves with Alaska, visiting her sister MaryLou in Valdez and “twin cousin” Jim in Anchorage. They journeyed frequently to the East Coast, from Tampa Bay to New England, and to British Columbia, Canada, visiting friends and relatives, and were looking forward to many more such trips.

A devoted mother, JoAnn encouraged her children academically and was proud of their participation in Puget Sound Musical Theater, which enhanced all their lives. The academics culminated when the children graduated from college in their chosen fields of interest, Bob from California Institute of Technology, and Molly from Washington State University.

JoAnn was particularly adept at all things crafty as well as culinary. Accomplished in sewing, knitting, crocheting and cross-stitching, she delivered to all her projects the competence and skill of a professional. Likewise, her expertise in the kitchen was both delicious and seemingly effortless. With Kurt’s extensive garden—really more of a small farm—they had plenty of fresh produce and spent time at season’s end processing the harvest.

A kind soul, conscientious daughter, devoted wife, loving mother, treasured sister, esteemed cousin, and sterling friend; no one who knew her can be unscarred by her departure. JoAnn will be interred in Tahoma National Cemetery.


One of her favorite t-shirts read:

“So many Books, So little Time”

So true for JoAnn

4 Responses to “JoAnn Keeney”

  • Jim "twin cousin" Roberts says:

    What a wonderful memorial statement for such a wonderful person. Can’t help but be sad for those of us remaining, Kurt, Bob, Molly and all the rest of us. Her life was seemingly cut short but she certainly lived it to the fullest. When she and I turned 68 last August at MaryLou’s in Valdez, she told me that she felt 68 was old…. Will miss and remember her to the end of my days.

  • Pete and Barbara Weber says:

    Our thoughts were with all of you on Saturday. JoAnn was a fantastic person who will be missed by everyone who knew her.

  • Lee Moen says:

    This is a beautifully written memorial of JoAnn! Thanks to Kurt, Molly, Bob & Valarie for having such a nice Celebration in her honor. We enjoyed seeing all the photos and visiting with you and other relatives and friends who attended. JoAnn was a wonderful person and all of us who spent time with her have many great memories to cherish. We will miss her.

  • Frances Potter Thomas says:

    Dear Kurt, Bob and Molly,
    I ran in to an old friend today who told me of JoAnn’s passing. I am so shocked and so sad for you, her family. I hope you still check in on this site, because I wanted to take the opportunity to say to you that your wife and mom was always the kindest neighbor I could have ever wished for. She was so welcoming of Amanda in her home, and always willing to help me out. What a lovely person JoAnn was in every way. Peace,
    Francie Potter Thomas

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