Joan Marie (Sahlin) Braley

22 entries | 8 photos
  • "I am sorry to hear of the loss of your love one. May God..."
  • "Please accept my condolences on the death of your dear love..."
    - Tasha G.
  • "Rest in peace dear Aunt Joan."
    - Kim Schafer
  • "My sincerest condolences for Joan's family. May prayers..."
  • "Dear Jody and Jim, Pleace accept our sincerest condlences..."
    - Aashild Jorann Rein
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Joan Marie Braley (1934 – 2014)

Joan Marie Sahlin Braley (Burkstrand, Hassel) passed away December 19, 2014 at her home in Fairbanks, Alaska. She was a loving wife and mother, fantastic baker and cook, skilled seamstress, meticulous bookkeeper, keen entrepreneur, and devoted friend with a beautiful singing voice.
Born Joan Marie Sahlin in Minneapolis, Minnesota to musicians Oscar and Agnes Sahlin, she learned to sing early. Her beloved sister Betty J. Swaney remembers how even at two years of age Joan sang: "I'm an old cow hand, from the Rio Grande!" Joan was an avid learner always taking heed of an early teacher's advice to read everything she could get her hands on. She was independent and full of spark from the start: at twelve she waited tables in her parents' restaurant after which she walked on her own through the city to see ten-cent movies. She was confirmed in the Lutheran Church as a teen and continued in strong faith throughout her long life.
Joan's life was defined by love. She married her junior high sweetheart C. Clayton Burkstrand immediately after graduating with the Class of 1952 from Central High School in Minneapolis. In 1955 his service to the Army brought Joan to her major love: Alaska. Later, in 1958 Joan married native Fairbanksan Gerald L. Hassel with whom she enjoyed the Fairbanks lifestyle of skiing, curling, and attending social events such as the Golden Days Mug Up and parade-Joan and Jerry were often seen riding the up and down bicycle built for two. She lived in many places around Fairbanks and Ester including the brand new Polaris building where she also worked as office manager and bookkeeper. Known as "the girl with the dog," she kept her German Shepherd companion "Major" (and later "Sheila") by her side. Joan dearly loved dogs, but she loved being a mother most of all. She often talked of having wanted a family with nine kids (like her MorMor-grandmother). In 1967 Joan and Jerry decided to adopt. Joan flew with her mother, Agnes Sahlin, to San Francisco to adopt her first baby, daughter Jody Marie Hassel. Three years later in 1970, she gave birth to her son James A Hassel whom she affectionately called her other first baby. In 1979 Joan met and fell in love with her dear husband William J. Braley. Joan and Bill loved to sing and dance, spending many a joyful hour at the piano belting out their favorite 30s and 40s tunes in perfect harmony. Both embraced a zany sense of humor, which kept them laughing all the time. On Halloween night in Las Vegas, 1986, Joan and Bill were married. In their twilight years together, they practiced and performed their favorite dance steps for every visitor and loved discussing movie stars and watching football. Joan is fondly remembered by her husband as, "the one great love of his life."
Throughout her life Joan participated in many community and business organizations. She was a member of the Curling Club, traveling with teams to distant bonspiels in Anchorage and Whitehorse. Joan was also a member of the Fairbanks Lutheran Church (where she taught Sunday School), the Fairbanks Syndolous Lutheran Church, the Soroptomist International of Fairbanks, Pioneers of Alaska Women's Igloo 8, and the Elks Club ladies' auxiliary Emblem Club for whom she graced the stage of the Flora Dora Show many times. In the vaudevillian variety show, Joan dazzled the audience with glamorous solo songs, marched with the majorettes, and performed comedy routines. Joan loved Fairbanks' Golden Days, once volunteering as chairman to organize the parade and often helping with other seasonal events such as the Pioneer Women's Tea and fashion show. Joan was a dedicated bookkeeper for Fairbanks Title, Alaska Title Guarantee, and her friends at Vagabond Travel. She started and sustained her own Amway business for over 30 years and was proud to be the first Direct Distributor of Amway products in Fairbanks.
Joan's exceptional loving kindness touched everyone in her midst, and she is loved by all who knew her. Joan is survived by her husband of 36 years, William J. "Bill" Braley of Fairbanks; daughter Jody M. Hassel and son James A Hassel of Fairbanks; sister Betty J. Swaney of Burnsville, MN and her children: niece Leigh Amundsen of Eagan, MN and nephew John Swaney of Lakeville, MN and all of their children and grandchildren; cousins Shar and Jeanette of Minnesota; numerous extended family members and dear friends in Alaska and the Lower 48; and her darling Yorkie-Tzu "Pearl."
A memorial to celebrate Joan's life with family and friends will be held from 4:30-7 p.m. Sunday, January 4 at Raven Landing Center, 1222 Cowles Street, Fairbanks, AK 99701. Phone number for Raven landing is 328-5458. Additional parking can be found at the library and the Lutheran church.
Published in The Juneau Empire from Dec. 31, 2014 to Jan. 30, 2015
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