'She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible.
She walked with the universe on her shoulders and
made it look like a pair of wings'
On April 18, 2020, members of the Class of !970, School of Nursing, University of Manitoba gathered in spirit and several of us online together to honour and celebrate the life of our classmate. Joan Jolley Embry. It was her birthday and a fitting time for us to honour her. We were a class of 40 or so that started the new baccalaureate program in nursing in 1966 and over the four years we spent together, we became bonded through the challenges, the hardships and the successes of what that program demanded and created for us. We were a varied group from all over the province of Manitoba, lots of characters, lots of spirits and in the midst of that was a sweet and gentle soul, Joan Jolley, who would become a friend to each of us.
In the past 50 years since we graduated, we have all had very unique and distinct lives, but the bond that was created from those arduous 4 years so long ago was something that has brought us together to celebrate the anniversaries that have since passed. When news of Joan's untimely death reached us two weeks ago it sent shock waves through the email chain that has connected us. We have been saddened and shocked by the sudden and untimely loss of such a beautiful soul. Our hearts have gone out with empathy and sorrow for Joan's entire family, most especially for her husband Ashton, who we all knew from the early days of their courtship all those years ago.
So many memories have been triggered in recalling our friend Joan and many have been shared between us. Those of us who came together in an online conversation on her birthday as well as those with us in spirit across the country had once thing in common and that was our sorrow for the loss of such a special soul.
While we have not been part of Joan and Ashton's life for all these years, we have seen the accolades which acknowledge who she has been in her professional and personal world. These are the same qualities that we came to know and love in the very young Joan so long ago. She was committed to caring, especially for the vulnerable and people at the margins of life. She was smart and loved by everyone. She was hard working and dedicated to efforts that she was passionate about, most especially her commitment to helping people with Multiple Sclerosis all over the world. We were privileged to know her in her formative years and to be a part of her early beginnings as a professional nurse.
Joan left her world far too soon but for each of us, she remains as a memory, like the light of a small candle, an inspiration, a thought, and a recollection of a beautiful soul that we were privileged to know.
We ended our celebration of Joan with the following Poem
'We thought of you today, but that is nothing new.
We thought about you yesterday and days before that too.
We think of you in silence and often speak your name.
All we have are memories and your picture in a frame.
Your memories are a keepsake from which we'll never part.
God has you in his arms and we'll have you in our hearts'
Margret Comack - one of the Class of 1970, School of Nursing, U of M
To Ashton and your family
Paul and I were very sorry to hear about Joan’s passing. As you know I worked with Joan for many years and admired her commitment to her family, patients and her profession. She never complained, was a very caring individual and always spoke highly of her family. We shared many good times at work. I remember her being initially concerned about what she would do when she retired, as she was so dedicated to her patients. . Of course as you know, it did not take her long to embrace a new life of retirement dedicating herself to her family, and other truly meaningful projects that made a difference in so many lives. We offer our sympathies to you at this very difficult time. Please know that you are in our thoughts.
Karen Russell and Paul Vink
Heartfelt condolences to Ashton and family from Gerhard and Gisele Pflug. Such sad news to hear about such a lovely person that we got to know over the last few years.
I had the opportunity to work with Joan at Calgary Regional Health Authority. We shared a passion for supporting seniors in the community. I found her to be extremely far sighted in her thinking and very compassionate. I carry many of her ideas and thoughts with me in my work today. Good bye Joan but not forgotten. Ralph Hubele (Alberta Health)
I worked with Joan on the Seniors Resource Nurse (SRN) team. Later we became the Healthy Aging Team and she moved on to Home Care. Joan had such a heart for seniors and helped to give them their voice in communities in Northwest Calgary.
As a result of her networking we trialed a Seniors Exercise class which was evaluated and found to be an effective heath promotion initiative. The present day Move 'n Mingle Fall Prevention Exercise program was birthed from Joan's work with the Northwest Seniors group.
I learned lots about community development through Joan's nursing career. She was a great human being and shared her gifts with many people. She will be missed.
My condolences to her family ..and may Joan's Spirit fly freely and in a Peace that Passes Understanding.
Judy Hughes (SRN for Downtown Calgary) .
It is with great sadness that we acknowledge Joan's departure. We came to know Joan through our participation in Direct-MS. She was such a thoughtful, caring individual with a lovely sense of humour. Always kind, generous and welcoming, Joan greatly assisted our organisation's pursuits. Thank you Joan. It was a pleasure and an honour to have known you. Our thoughts and condolences to Ashton, Mathew, Dean and Duncan and your families.
Love Nick and Michelle Topolnyski
Words cannot express the depth of sorrow we have for the loss of Joan. We feel a heartfelt gratitude to have known her and to have shared in pieces of her life and her world. Joan was always kind, always caring and possessed an immense empathy that will live on and through so many in our positive and valued memories. Joan's tenacity married with compassion was something to behold. We will never forget it. We will always admire it. She helped, she guided, she was a gift to all of us that were fortunate enough to have her in our lives - for too short a time.
Our deepest sympathy
Randy & Marilyn Webb
I was 17 years old when I met Joan when I started dating my now husband Duncan (her youngest son). She became an amazing mother-figure to me as well as a role-model. I am heartbroken but feel so fortunate to have had her in my life for so many years and for the close and special relationship we built.
Joan and Ashton welcomed me into the Embry Family with open arms and have been the absolute best in-laws, supporting us as a couple every step of the way with the perfect amount of guidance and space. They always encouraged me in my career and trusted me to help design the information material for their charity for Multiple Sclerosis, Direct-MS. I was honoured to work closely with Joan in this past year designing the Best Bet Diet Cookbook. I was astonished at the amount of time and effort she dedicated to the project. She spent countless hours compiling recipes over the years, writing while on vacation at the lake, cooking recipes to photograph and editing. I am so glad she got to see the finished book but saddened that she is not here to get the recognition she deserves for all her hard work (as it is just now being delivered to people affected by MS). Knowing her though, she wouldn’t care about acknowledgement (in fact it took some convincing to get her to agree to put her name on the cover). She was happy just the knowing the recipes will help many people with MS in the future and they surely will. I will cherish the time we spent creating the cookbook together.
As a Grandmother, Joan, along with Grandpa Ashton, created so many special moments and memories for our kids including a fairy garden they would set up every spring and a clubhouse created from a shed in their backyard. Our kids loved having sleepovers there because they got to play with their Dads and uncles old toys (which were carefully saved for future grandkids). They had their own pirate-themed room and loved playing board games, baking with Grandma and and going to the theatre. In addition to helping with the kids, Joan hosted Sunday dinner almost every week and always made extra so we could take home leftovers. She was always finding ways to help us out and enhance our lives.
Joan once told me that at her celebration of life people would say that “she was a nice person.” Although that is true, people will say so much more! That is the kind of humble person she was. I hope she realized what an incredible impact she had in this world and how many people she touched with her kindness, compassion and thoughtfulness. Joan, you will not only be remembered as a ‘nice person’ but as a hero who made incredible contributions in this world and truly made a positive difference to so many lives. We will miss you forever. Love, your daughter-in-law, Kim
Joan was one in a million. She was a woman of action and a role model for all of us.
My deepest condolences to Ashton and the rest of Joan's family during this period of great loss. She will be greatly missed by her family by her and Ashton's work with MS will provide a strong legacy to remember her by. My thoughts and prayers go with the family in this time of grief.
Such an intelligent ,compassionate lady,who immmersed herself in making the world a better place.I learned so much from her and enjoyed being involved in a number of her projects.So many memories of stimulating conversations ,re health care,family,political affairs and books provoking lots of good dialogue.I miss her immensely.Rest peacefully my dear friend.
Sincerest sympathy to Ashton and family.
Joan Unryn April 10 /20
My sincere condolences to Ashton and family
I am so sorry my friend Joan is gone.We have been friends for many years We worked together as Public Health Nurses at North Hill Clinic. We shared a very lively office.Joan was brilliant and humble at the same time.The seniors valued her gentle spirit.
Since we retired Joan and I shared alot of discussions often laughing about our aging issues.
I enjoyed the chats about her family.She loved her boys .Her grandchildren were her joy.
In recent weeks she shared the difficult health issues she was experiencing.She often spoke how Ashton was so supportive during this difficult time.
Iwill miss Joan. I loved her honesty ,her sense of humour her loving spirit.
She was a treasure
Joan will live on through many memories of her generous spirit and her always smiling face. She met every challenge with a laugh. She will live on many ways, but perhaps her final legacy will the the cookbook that will feed thousands of people in a healthy and sustaining way. She will live on each time somebody feeds their family, each time somebody prepares a loving meal. She is an inspiration to all of us. Thank you, Embrys, for being a collective positive force in the world.
Love, the Vandenbergs.
Joan recruited me to volunteer in the Seniors Christmas Dinner. It became a highlight of Christmas for me for a number of years.
Joan and I shared clients over the years and I first met her when she was in Homecare. I loved her approach to clients - seeing them as a person rather than a diagnosis or a task to be completed. She was/is my idea of the ideal nurse.
I will miss the sound of her voice and her laugh the most. She was a wonderful friend.
"Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill". Joan's desire and tenacity to help and do good for others, especially those with affected by MS, is a testament to her extraordinary character. DIRECT-MS naturally has and continues to help our household manage MS and other immune deficient diseases - THANK YOU JOAN and FAMILY! Ashton and family, our thoughts and prayers are with you. We will miss our friend Joan and we will keep her forever in our hearts'. Very saddened - Rick, Cindy, Matthew and Roman Riffel
Joan was a wonderful person who will be deeply missed. Her love for Ashton and her family filled her life with joy and pride. She was an intelligent, kind and empathetic soul. Her sense of humour was infectious, and her views of family, local and world issues were insightful, helpful, and often hilarious! We spent hours in the back alley (we live across the alley) chatting, giggling, sharing stories and solving world problems. Her spirit will live on with us and be forever in our hearts and minds. On a professional level, Joan’s intelligence, combined with compassion and a warm personality helped her achieve great things and make countless lives healthier and happier. Many of the plants in her garden were given to her by patients, and she remembered each person with warmth and a smile.
Our deepest condolences to Ashton, Mathew, Dean, Duncan and your families.
Love from Don and Kate KRONSTEDT
I first met Joan via telephone as she worked in the Seniors program in Public Health that she set up. We collaborated to bring the best to clients. Then I was so happy when she joined the Homecare team I was part of and it was a privilege to have her as a colleague. She worked hard and always put others first. Her total dedication to her clients was always evident but so was her love and care for her family. I last saw Joan when she had knee surgery & had a great visit with her & her husband when I loaned her some items & then when Joan & Ashton returned them to my place. My deepest sympathy Ashton & family. I know your beloved wife, mother & grandmother will be deeply missed.
My deepest condolences to you all! I have been wanting to stop in and visit you all for some time now when I've been in Calgary, and now so deeply not making it a priority. One of those classic examples of, "Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today!". I so regret putting it off for tomorrow. I have such fond memories of living next door to you on Brockington Rd. I loved spending time at your house and taking care of the boys. You're family meant so much to me during my teen years. I remember when you moved in and being so excited to have these new wonderful neighbors next door. I remember having tea with Joan in the evenings. I felt so grown up. The day that Duncan was born was such an exciting day for me. Joan asked me to be your live in nanny that summer. Trips to the zoo, or just spending time in the backyard in the sandbox or watching Mathew and Dean on their spring horses were so much fun! I loved spending time with the boys and being their babysitter. Mathew, Dean and Duncan became the little siblings that I never had, (being so much younger than my own siblings), and Joan did such an amazing job at making me feel like I belonged there. Joan always had nursing in her blood, and was always ready to help out where she could. I remember ice falling off my bike on my way home from school and getting a whole bunch of gravel encased in the palm of my hind. Nobody was home at my house, so I went next door and Joan got it all cleaned up and took me to the doctor to get stitches, then she later took the stitches out for me. I have a scar on my hand to this day as a reminder of how caring Joan was throughout this episode. Joan was a healer whether it was for people or animals. On two different occasions I remember bringing over injured birds, and Joan patiently healed them back to health. Joan will be missed greatly.
All My Love,
Janice (Christensen) Gross
My deepest condolences to you Ashton and to your family. Joan and I go back many years. I replaced her when she left VON and in 2004 I hired her at Home Care. She was indeed a nurse extraordinaire and a good friend. She was excellent to work with and I am so sorry she is gone. She will always hold a special place in my heart and I will remember her with fondness always. With deepest sympathy, Donna Piche
Les mots me manquent...j'imagine votre peine.
Sachez que j'ai besoin de mettre mon coeur près de vous en ce moment. Restez forts, unis et laissez vous guider par l'amour familial et les doux et merveilleux souvenirs de Joan....elle est présente plus que jamais dans votre cœur et sera toujours bienveillante avec vous. Avec beaucoup d'amour, Roxanne Mc Murray, de la Mauricie, Quebec xxx