August 8, 1939 – October 7, 2012
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Joan Gaynell Thigpin Burnside, our vivacious and fun-loving sister, mother, and aunt, died Sunday, October 7, 2012, after a brief illness. The family will hold a private memorial service.
A consummate educator, Joan graduated from Campbell High School, California, and earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees from San Jose State University. She then began her career as a special education teacher and speech pathologist at schools in San Jose and Santa Cruz, California. In the mid-1970s she became an assistant school superintendent for the Morongo Valley Unified School District in Yucca Valley, California. During her years in Yucca Valley, Joan was active in the Rotary Club and other civic organizations. She was on the first Town Council and also served a term as mayor. Joan was especially proud of having worked with various community groups to help establish Copper Mountain College in Yucca Valley.
After her retirement in 1994, Joan moved to College Station, Texas to be close to her sister and care for her aging mother. She worked as a speech pathologist for schools in Robertson County and Conroe, Texas, then assisted with the special education programs in the College Station Unified School District. She also volunteered her assistance to a school for handicapped children in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. In 2004, Joan faced grueling treatment for laryngeal cancer with her usual grace and fortitude. No longer able speak normally, she found a new form of self-expression in art quilting, creating works evocative of her love of Mexican folk art and all things colorful. Joan lived her life fully, continuing to travel internationally and in the U.S., attend shows and events, and root for the Aggie Women's basketball team. She laughed a lot, committed untold acts of random kindness, and played a mean game of Scrabble.
Joan was predeceased by her parents Julian and Gaynell Floyd, and her brother Harold J. Floyd. She is survived by her son John Thigpin of Chilcoot, California; her sister Ellen and brother-in-law Kurt Ritter of College Station; niece Valerie Ritter of Bethesda, Maryland; and nephew David Floyd of Springfield, Oregon, as well as other family and friends.
We are most grateful to the physicians and staff of the College Station Medical Center who treated Joan with great skill and compassion in her final days, and to the Compassionate Care Hospice for the support and assistance they provided to our family.
Published in The Bryan-College Station Eagle from October 9 to October 10, 2012