"A leading lady in all that she does," the description of Joanne Azalea Smerdon (nee Duck) in her high school yearbook captures the essence of her life.
Joanne Azalea Duck Smerdon, born in Neosho, Missouri on September 17, 1931, died peacefully in Monterey, California, on January 5, 2024, at the age of 92. She reunited with her beloved husband, Ernest Thomas Smerdon, who died in 2014 after 63 years of a cherished and enduring marriage. Joanne was also preceded in death by her sister, Virginia Duck Bruce, and her parents, Joseph and Inez Bringgold Duck.
As a young woman, Joanne was an accomplished violinist and actress. Later, she became a passionate advocate for early childhood reading and exposure to music and for destigmatizing mental health issues and supporting those affected. She embraced new challenges, including community volunteer work; selling real estate; being the meteorologist for a new television station; and co-founding a business to create a television pilot geared toward the interests of older adults. Joanne was renowned for her not-to-be-missed parties.
Joanne and her husband Ernie shared a passion for travel and adventure, from camping trips to national parks and World’s Fairs with their children to extensive international travel later on. In 1963, before embarking on a trip around the world with her husband, Joanne was featured as a model in McCall’s magazine in an article on travel-friendly yet elegant hairstyles. Their travels also took them extensively through the US and Mexico. and they had fond memories of hiking and rafting in the Grand Canyon. Joanne hiked in and out of the Grand Canyon three times, the last when she was 67.
Joanne faced life's joys and challenges with grace, intelligence, and creativity. She was a devoted wife and loving mother and grandmother. Joanne's influence extended beyond her immediate family, touching the lives of her many nieces, nephews, and a multitude of friends. Her grandchildren especially remember her generosity, kindness, support, and zest for life. They will be forever grateful for Grandma giving them the blueprint on how to live an inspired and impactful life. Joanne was indeed a leading lady in all that she did.
Joanne is survived by her three children and their families: Ernest Thomas Smerdon, Jr. (wife Susan Henricks, previous wife Leigh McGuigan); Katherine Anne Smerdon Myers (husband Tom Myers); and Gary Joe Smerdon (wife Sandra Wheatley Smerdon, previous wife Maureen Keenan Smerdon) and ten grandchildren and spouses and ten great-grandchildren.
A memorial service to celebrate her extraordinary life will be held later this year. For those inclined to do so, the family kindly requests that donations be made to the Ernest and Joanne Smerdon Scholarship at the University of Arizona, which can be made online at http://bit.ly/Smerdon-gift.