Miss Joan Gunnuss

Miss Joan Gunnuss died today. I know her because her husband John is one of my former co-workers. She died of cancer, and like probably all cancer deaths, it’s a shame.

Joan was one of those good people that there should be more of.  She was kind and curious and was always glad to see me.  I’m guessing she was always glad to see hundreds of people.

My first encounter with her was an observation.  It was back-to-school time and everyone was getting into the swing of things.  For me and two other teachers, it was the first time we did the back-to-school thing at this particular school. It was hectic and tiring and there were so many new faces.

One of the new teachers, Ariel, was going out of the school, passing through the vestibule–a passageway I could see from my desk.  A woman was coming in and Ariel and the woman locked eyes.  There was some sort of recognition and exclamation and hugging before Ariel continued out the door and the woman came in.

The woman was Joan.  She had taught Ariel dance, or possibly yoga, when she was a girl.  Ariel was glad to see Joan and Joan was thrilled to run into a former student all grown up.  They had a connection, even after all the years had gone by.

I officially met Joan later that day and we had a connection too. Because Joan wasn’t the type of person to give you a cursory once-over and a “nice to meet you,” then slot you into a category and be done with the meeting.  She really looked at you. She was genuinely happy to meet you.  She remembered things about you.

Joan was a hippie in the best way. She taught yoga. She had long hair.  She was full of joy. She lived in a tiny old house on a blueberry farm that was surrounded by a huge suburban housing development.  She was long and lean and moved with grace and purpose.  She loved her dogs, her children, her husband and seemingly everyone else.

I remember at her and John’s wedding watching her walk to the alter.  She took time to look everyone attending in the eye. “It was like she was thinking, ‘I want to remember everyone who was here,'” my co-worker said later when I remarked on it.

Aside from movement, Joan loved music.  She was always up for a sing along, played guitar and loved to have at least a couple songs where the choruses were whistled.

She will be missed by many.  I’m glad to have known her.

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