March 6, 1936 – April 14, 2021
Joan Margaret Sternagel, age 85, passed away on April 14, 2021 surrounded by her loved ones. Her beauty, grace and boundless spirit will be forever remembered.
Joan was born on March 6, 1936 in Plymouth, England to Ruby and Robert Axon.
A few years later she was joined by her beloved little brother, Brian. Her early childhood memories were shaped by surviving World War II, losing her grandfather and her home in the Plymouth Blitz of 1940. She and her brother were evacuated to the Cornwall countryside, to return to Plymouth only after the war was over. Her love of the English countryside, the fields of heather and beaches that go on for miles, remained with her always.
In her youth Joan loved sports, playing on the school basketball and field hockey teams. As an expression of her Christian faith, she sang in the Baptist Church youth choir and volunteered with the Girls Brigade.
Upon completing girls’ high school, Joan began pursuing her nursing career. Though just 17, she entered Orthopedic and General Nursing, caring for many, including TB Bovine and Polio patients.
Deemed a ‘natural’, she won the Silver Medal nursing award. In 1957, Joan began her true passion working in midwifery. No matter the weather, she rode her bicycle to visit expectant mothers throughout parts of London and Plymouth, delivering their newborn babies for the next two years.
In 1959, Joan travelled across the Atlantic on the ‘Empress of Britain’ with lifelong nurse mates to find adventure travelling and working in Canada. They began in Montreal, sharing a flat and working at the Montreal General.
One adventure included a road trip in their VW Bug to the 1962 Seattle World Fair. During one car mishap, Joan’s no-nonsense attitude took over as she donned an apron and worked as a waitress for a few days to pay the repair bills. When things needed doing, Joan made sure they were done. From Montreal, she moved further west to Collingwood and Listowel, Ontario and eventually Roblin, Manitoba.
Joan met young Erhard on the train returning to Europe and it was on the ship, once again crossing the Atlantic, that their relationship began. Having returned to Germany, Ed decided he must visit Joan in England and promises were made.
Once back in Canada, they were married in Saskatoon on December 20, 1963. Joan continued nursing until Laurel was born (1964) and then Hannah (1966). After a brief stint to Kitimat, B.C., her new little family moved back to Europe sharing precious time between loved ones in England and Germany.
After returning to Canada, Joan began work at the Holy Cross Hospital in Calgary, Alberta, where her family continued to grow. Rebecca was born (1968) and Timothy (1972). A final move to the B.C. countryside brought everyone to Creston in 1974.
Nursing at the Creston Valley Hospital, Joan made wonderful, lasting friendships, brought many babies into the world and gave a little piece of herself to each of her patients. It is a beautiful thing to hear someone say, “I remember your mum! She helped deliver my son. She was just wonderful!” She concluded her 43 year career in nursing at the Swan Valley Lodge, retiring in 1996.
Joan volunteered for a variety of organizations and was an active member in her community, unafraid to tackle issues and speak up when she felt someone needed to. Often advocating for children’s issues, she was a founding member of the Creston Elementary Parent Advisory Committee.
Travelling was a lifelong interest, taking her from Europe to Alaska, Israel to the Caribbean. Her love of books inspired her to fulfill a lifelong dream, returning ‘home’ to England in 1997 to attend a 3 week course to study Children’s Literature at Oxford University. She loved poetry, theatre, music and painting and generously shared these and many other gifts with her children.
There were many fun-filled game nights with accordion and piano playing. There was always fresh baking in the house and fresh cut flowers on the dining room table. More recently, she treasured her grandchildren and was always eager to hear about their latest travels, adventures, achievements and passions.
Her life was forever changed by the sudden passing of her son, Timmy, in 1982. She is also predeceased by her parents and brother Brian. She is survived by her husband Ed, daughters Laurel (Brian), Hannah (Tim) and Rebecca, and grandchildren Jacob (Monique), Natasha, Devon (Bethany – great-granddaughter Psyche), Shalayna (Sam), Stephanie and Mikaela.
She is also remembered in both England and Germany by many beloved sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews and their families.
Our family would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all of those that cared for our smart, feisty, “unique” Mum; the Wound Care and Home Health units, the nurses attending to Mum in Palliative Care, and Dr. Weaver. We thank her dear friends, near and far, that visited, phoned, and reached out regularly these past few years. Please know that she spoke of you often with much fondness as she reflected on your many shared memories – often with a twinkle in her eye.
We’ll miss you dearly, Mum, “for the greater the love, the greater the grief.”
– C.S.Lewis A Grief Observed
A family memorial graveside service will occur at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, friends and family may make a memorial contribution to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice (1690 Matthews Ave., Vancouver, B.C., V6J 9Z9) www.canuckplace.org/donate or BC Children’s Hospital Foundation (4480 Oak St., Vancouver, B.C. V6H 3V4 www.bcchildrens.ca/donate.
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