Joan VanCleave was born in Billings, Montana on December 4, 1936 and fell asleep in death on March 27, 2023 at Redwood R&R in Eureka. She was the youngest of five children. She married William “Bill” VanCleave on December 31, 1953, and they enjoyed 61 years together until Bill’s death on October 25, 2015.

In the early 1960s, Joan and Bill moved from the coast to help establish a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Hoopa and Willow Creek area. They loved sharing their Bible-based hope of the time, soon, when God’s Kingdom under the rulership of Jesus Christ will bring peace earth-wide. Over the years, they studied the Bible with others, some of whom also came to love and serve Jehovah God.

Some, including her niece and a friend from the coast, fondly recall summer visits and going with Joan and Bill inner tubing, swimming, camping and making homemade cookies.

Occasionally, Joan liked playing pranks. One friend related the time Joan made delicious pancakes covered in syrup for the friend’s sons, but they were unable to cut them because Joan had put rolls of cotton in them for a laugh.

Joan was a school bus driver for many years. Some who rode her bus as children still called her “Mrs. VanCleave” after they grew up, and some of their children also rode her bus.

Joan appreciated her kind and loving neighbors, Gary and Karen Madsen and Hiedi and Keir Johnston, who checked in on her and brought her food.

Joan was preceded in death by her parents, four siblings, one nephew, and her husband, Bill. She is survived by her one niece and her family.

Many thanks go to Joan’s caregivers at Redwood R&R and Hospice of Humboldt for their compassionate care.

A memorial for Joan VanCleave will be held on Saturday, May 13, 2023 at 2 p.m. at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 65 Blue Jay Lane, Willow Creek. To attend via Zoom, please use this information: ID: 834 5987 6618 Passcode: 546832.


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Shirley VanCleave’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here. Email