Bountiful, UT—Joan Graham Christensen (85) died peacefully in her home on January 1, 2020, surrounded by family.
Joan was born on August 14, 1934, in Fairview, Utah, to Ellis Earl Graham and Mary Mae Sanderson. She was raised in Manti, Utah, the youngest of five children, and the darling of the family. Even from an early age, everyone recognized that Joan was an angel, a little bit of heaven on earth for all who knew her.
In 1952, Mac Christensen, “Mr. Mac,” offered to give Joan a ride home from a Snow College basketball game. The rest is history. They were married on June 23, 1953, and enjoyed 66 years together. They were blessed with eight children, 39 grandchildren, and 44 great grandchildren.
For Joan, 66 years with Mac and countless memories with her beloved children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were the greatest treasures of her life. Joan held many callings in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including Primary President, Relief Society President, and positions in the stake auxiliaries, but there was no calling more precious to her than wife and mother.
Joan will be remembered for her sweet disposition, her calming presence, and her quiet faith. She never liked the spotlight, but she was a bright light in the lives of all who knew and loved her. She quilted handmade blankets for each of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren; remembered every birthday with a special gift and hand-picked card; and was a fantastic cook, keeping her five sons well-fed with endless meat and potatoes, homemade bread, and oatmeal cookies. For her grandkids, especially the naughty ones, she never judged, always offered a hug or her home, and always chose love over lectures. Her life of faith, kindness, and gentleness was a better example to all of her posterity than any lecture ever could have been.
Joan and Mac raised their family in Utah and Idaho, eventually settling in Bountiful in 1964, where they enjoyed a wonderful ward, great neighbors to raise their kids with, and a beautiful home that Joan filled with warmth and the Spirit. As Mac always said, “Joan raised eight kids without raising her voice.” Knowing you had disappointed Mom, or worse, made her cry, was punishment enough.
Joan was truly the wind beneath Mac’s wings. As Mac built a business, Joan managed the house, the family, and the finances. As Mac worked on the Bountiful Temple Committee, Joan oversaw food preparations for attending dignitaries and guests. When Mac was called to be the director of the Washington DC Temple Visitors Center, Joan was by his side, taking care of the missionaries and coordinating the endless events at the Center. Joan was forever cooking, creating, and planning whatever Mac needed to help him fulfill the countless projects and efforts he was called to. They were an incredible team, and both thought they got the better end of the deal.
Joan was an avid reader and was often found with a variety of books on her side table. From Louis L’Amour and Agatha Christie to the Federalist Papers and Emerson, she read them all. Mac always said she was brilliant.
Joan also loved to sew, not only making dozens of quilts, but hundreds of costumes and clothing for her children and grandchildren for school plays, dance recitals, service projects, and road shows. Countless are the number of tattered blankets she repaired, Scout patches she sewed on, and prom dresses she created.
Joan is survived by her daughter-in-law Terri (Taud) Olsen; seven children—Scott (Janine), Sydnie (Reed) Shurtliff, Stan (Teri), Spencer (Carolyn), Stuart, Shauna (Michael) Cleverly, and Sara (Matt) Ebert; 39 grandchildren; 44 great grandchildren; and three more great grandchildren on the way. Also surviving are two sisters, Nora Mae Willey and Gloria Sonntag, and her brother, Jerry Graham.
Joan is preceded in death by her husband, Mac; her oldest son, Steve; her parents; her brother Rodney Graham; her siblings-in-law Clyde Willey, Pat Graham, Ethelyn Graham, and Doug Sonntag; her daughter-in-law Betsy Wiscombe Christensen; and her great-grandson Bowen James Larsen.
Joan was a special and dear person to countless friends and neighbors, and there are many who want to pay their respects, for which the family is sincerely grateful. But to honor her specific wishes that her funeral be a simple service, a family funeral was held on Sunday, January 5th. In lieu of flowers, Joan has expressed that those who might choose to do so could consider a donation to Primary Children’s Hospital.
To send flowers to Joan's family, please visit our floral section.