Joanne D. Almon was born September 16, 1944, in Anacortes, to Earl and Dagmar Sparks, and spent her youth in nearby Mt. Vernon, where she worked in the bulb fields during school vacations, being of the wrong gender to join her brothers, Bernell and Larry, as members of the Alaska commercial fishing fleet, as had the males in her family for generations.
In 1968 she and Bill Almon were married during Bill's last year in law school, at the University of Washington, and the couple, with son Craig, moved to Yakima the day after learning Bill passed the bar exam. Joanne worked for a while at Yakima Valley Community College, then as a sales representative in the hop industry, being sent to Europe for a month to learn more about the industry, within which she developed many friendships lasting the remainder of her life.
When daughter Anne arrived, Joanne left work to raise their daughter, and in 1979, when Anne entered school, Joanne became restless, entered the residential real estate field, immediately realizing she had found her calling. Within five years she had established her own brokerage, Almon Realty, Inc., initially in the family home, soon moving to a new building constructed in west Yakima. Ultimately the building grew to 13,000sf in size, with 60 agents and more than a dozen support staff, with Joanne herself becoming the most prolific residential broker Yakima Valley has known. She took great pride not only in having clients become her friends, but in treating her agents and staff as family.
Joanne was active in many civic organizations, served on local and state real estate boards and committees, and was well-regarded as one who would accomplish any task she undertook, willingly volunteering for the more difficult projects, and for her uncanny ability to provide advice to persons who needed it - even when they might not know they needed it. She believed in service to others and in putting back into her adopted Yakima Valley what it had so generously made available to her and her family.
Joanne sold the residential real estate brokerage in 2007, and she retired from the industry in 2009, when her health began to deteriorate due to Multiple System Atrophy. The last couple years of her life she was cared for in the family home by special friends Evie Chambers and Darcy Dugger, as well as by husband Bill. While daughter Annie was still in Yakima, she and Mom Joanne cherished Friday nights spent together while Bill was on patrol with Yakima Police Department, curled up in bed watching TV, giggling at past memories recalled.
Joanne and Bill had the privilege of traveling throughout much of the world, most via the two passenger ships of Crystal Cruises. Each time Crystal's liners leave port, there is played over their loudspeakers Louis Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World", which always made Joanne cry tears of happiness, looking forward to the next leg of the adventure with Bill. Their last cruise was a year ago, New York to London via Iceland, despite Joanne being confined to a wheelchair.
The final two weeks of her life were spent at Cottage in the Meadow, the wonderful hospice facility operated by Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital at "Almon Campus" on land made available by Joanne and Bill, adjacent to the home in which they raised their children for 33 years. While at the Cottage, she participated in 2nd birthday of grandson Dash, special birthday of daughter Anne, and was thrilled to be able to hold newborn grandson Dallas Sparks Almon, born the day Joanne entered hospital for the final time. The staff at Cottage in the Meadow became enchanted by her smile and the ready hug she gave each of them when they tended to her, until she could no longer raise her arms nor open her eyes.
Joanne passed away on a beautiful Spring evening, April 1, 2013, gazing at her family, holding hands with Bill, and was preceded in death by her parents, Earl and Dagmar Sparks, her special "Swedish Aunt", Signe Nordstrom, and is survived by husband Bill, children Craig (Lisa) Almon, Anne Almon, Bill Almon, Jr., and grandchildren Camden, Gracie, Eric, Dash and Dallas, as well as dear brothers, Bernell (Sharon) Sparks and Larry (Janice) Sparks.
A Memorial Service will be at 3:00 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at the 4th Street Theatre in Yakima. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made in Joanne's memory to Cottage in the Meadow or Children's Village in care of Memorial Foundation - 2701 Tieton Drive Yakima, WA. 98902. To offer a condolence or to share a memory of Joanne, please visit www.keithandkeith.com.
It's a wonderful world.