Joan Baker Shepardson
Joan Baker Shepardson

December 28, 1927 - September 2, 2016
Born in New York
Resided in Denver, CO
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Born in 1927, in New York City, New York, the daughter of John H. Baker and Elizabeth C. Dabney, Joan Prentis Baker, and her sister Barbara Carrington Baker grew up in New York City witnessing and participating in the great changes of their city, and surroundings, as America endured the Great Depression and then went on to contribute to victory of the Second World War. Joan threw her energetic nature into activities in both the city and countryside, and with family and friends, she developed a deep affection for both city culture, and her parents farm, garden, and woods in Duchess County NY. Her attraction to nature, and independent spirit, also took her west, as a young woman, to Wyoming – where she worked one summer on a ranch – an experience that would prove telling for her future life.

Joan attended Smith College, graduating in 1949, after choosing a BA Theater, in part for the opportunity to study under Hallie Flannagan - an experience she valued all her life. She was awarded Phi Beta Kappa for her academic achievements.

While still in college, she met John W. Shepardson, also of NYC, a returning Navy veteran who participated in the liberation of the Philippines. They were married in in NYC in 1950 and lived there, for a short time, before departing on the adventure of their lives together. Having both spent time in the west as teenagers (John in New Mexico), they shared a common attraction to the Rockies, and in 1952 departed the east coast. Starting in a used Audubon Society panel truck – configured for camping duty - they swept through points south, including Louisiana and Texas, and then west, to New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming; settling down, for intervals, in Nevada and Colorado, as John began a career in the oil business as a Petroleum Landman. Their first child, Elizabeth, arrived in 1953, in Salt Lake City, UT, and their son, Daniel in Denver in 1956. Forging lifelong friendships with other young parents in the Denver area, they enjoyed the mountains, forests and rivers of Colorado and took pleasure in the newly forming cultural offerings in the Queen City of The Plains.

In 1964, spurred on by a cyclical downturn in the oil business, and the death of John's mother, Joan packed up her family and oversaw a return to the east coast where she settled in Wellsley, MA, and began another fruitful period of her life. Coordinating and encouraging connections between her family and their grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts, and childhood friends she orchestrated a rich time of family experiences and memories. As her children grew into early independence, she took a degree in Library Science from Simmons, and, as the call of the west proved too strong to ignore in both their hearts, she agreed to pack up John, and her children, one last time, for a return to Denver, in 1968.

In 1970 she began a professional career as a Law Librarian at a major Denver firm, which quickly transitioned to Human Resources Director when the partners recognized her work ethic and theatrically trained abilities to assess and combine people in effective teams. She developed many friendships with other working women, and shared the frustration and joys of feminism in America the 1970s.
In the early '80s, she kicked off her retirement with a bicycle trip to China – which at that time had just barely opened to the outer world, and then settled into the hands-on responsibilities of operating a small cattle ranch that she purchased, with John, in Three Forks, Montana.

She was blessed with twenty five years of retirement when she traveled Europe by rail and bike – behind the freshly drawn Iron Curtain – in Hungary and also across France, Austria, the Netherlands, England and Ireland. Yet more, and new, dear friends in Montana. Irrigating the ranch, clearing weeds, fixing fences, hiking with BWACS, canoeing the Madison, and Yellowstone rivers, and tending her aches at the Bozeman Hot Springs.

From October through May, in Denver, she found time to volunteer for Gardian ad litum, the Mile High United Way, and taught English as a second language to new American citizens. She developed a particular affection for Mile High Montessori, and contributed toward staff development and recreation for many years. She was also able to combine her love of the theatre, and her library skills, when she volunteered, for years, at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theater Library – bringing order to years of company materials, scripts, and memorabilia.

In 1998, in the midst of these activities, she became a Grandmother to Madeline Jane, and in the year 2000, to Emily Erin Shepardson. Their arrival was a joy to her (and John) – as she poured her energy and care into her new role – attending school functions, hosting holiday and birthday gatherings, baking tarts-for homework days at Grannies, and leading the whole family out to museums, the theatre and the opera. She was both a "rock" and a loving grannie to both her granddaughters – and they are her joy and pride.

When John passed away in 2009, her daughter Betsy returned from a life on the east coast, in New York City, to join her Mom, brother, and his family in Denver, Colorado. Betsy and her mom enjoyed a true renaissance in family life as they shared her home in Denver. Betsy re-established childhood friend connections, and shared those with Joan, as did Joan share her many Denver friends with Betsy. Joan's last year of declining health was eased and comforted by Betsy's faithful and increasing attendance to her needs.

Joan passed away, in the thoughts of all those who loved her, and attended by her loving daughter, at Denver Hospice on September, 2, 2016. Betsy notes that at the time of passing, she was listening to French songs by Ravel. A triumphant life, to be sure.

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Horan & McConaty - Colorado
1091 S. Colorado Blvd.
Denver, CO US 80246