Local educator and historian Joanne Oehring died Saturday, June 12, at age 85. She was born in 1936 to Thomas and Ethel Schorum and had one older brother, Stanley, who died before her. The family lived in Niles, Illinois, which at the time was on the outskirts of Chicago. Joanne attended East Maine Township Elementary School and Maine Township (now Maine East) High School in Des Plaines and Park Ridge, Illinois. She first met her husband, James, who was a friend of her brother, during her high school years.
Joanne attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she earned her BA in 1958. She entered a master's program at Northwestern but left it in December 1959 to travel to Fairbanks and marry James, who had moved there before her to find work. In 1960, they moved to a home on 10 acres on Cloud Road in the Badger Road area, where they lived for the next 52 years. After several years of raising five children full time, Joanne returned to school at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and earned a teaching certificate. She taught for one year at Ryan Junior High School before transferring to North Pole Junior-Senior High School when the school opened in 1976. She taught social studies and English, including AP U.S. history, for 22 years. She continued to attend school while teaching and earned her MAT degree at UAF in 1988.
Joanne was an active longtime member of Women's Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska and volunteered at the Pioneer Museum at Pioneer Park for 22 years. Her passion for local history led her to spend many hours cataloging, scanning, and archiving documents and photographs for the museum as well as managing its day-to-day operations. This passion also made her a walking encyclopedia of historical information about almost any era or part of the world, and her accuracy in providing dates, names, event descriptions, and historical context was legendary.
Joanne was a talented gardener with a special fondness for flowers. She could not walk by any flowerbed without stopping to examine it. At her house on Cloud Road, as well as planting extensive flowerbeds and shrubs, she kept a large vegetable garden and greenhouse for many years and canned, froze, and pickled vegetables to feed her family through the winters. She also had a large strawberry bed and raspberry hill and sent her children out to collect gallons of cranberries every fall for juice and preserves.
Joanne was a voracious reader and especially enjoyed science fiction and fantasy. She had a large collection of paperbacks and was trying to reread them all in recent years. She loved to sing and for several years was a member of the Raven Landing Singers.
She enjoyed playing cribbage and pinochle with family and friends - especially when she won.
She was a knitter who made beautiful sweaters for family and friends, and when her children were young, she sewed many of their clothes, including parkas and mukluks. She was an excellent baker, especially of homemade breads.
To the end of her life, Joanne was remarkable for her intellectual curiosity, sense of humor, and progressive politics. She cared deeply about women's rights and social justice.
She is survived by her husband as well as four children, eight grandchildren, and their partners/spouses. Her youngest daughter died before her.
A memorial service will be held Thursday, July 8, at 3:30 p.m. at the Pioneer Museum at Pioneer Park. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Fairbanks Pioneer Museum, P.O. Box 70176, Fairbanks, AK, 99707 (memo "Joanne Oehring").
Online condolences can be made to the family at blanchardfamilyfuneralhome.com.
Published by Daily News-Miner on Jun. 26, 2021.