Joan (“Joanie") Louise Thomson Relf, 66, of Danville, Indiana, died peacefully on Sunday, July 28, 2019, at Life’s Journey of Avon (Life's Journey Hospice House). Her death was the conclusion to an eight-month, hard-fought battle against pancreatic cancer.
Joanie was preceded in death by her husband, Richard Samuel Relf; her parents, Mary Gertrude Fassnacht Thomson and Robert Clare Thomson; and her brother, Richard (“Dick") Clare Thomson.
Surviving are her daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren:
• Erin and Eric Bell, and Evelyn Bell
• Corie and Chad Farnsley, and Gabriel, Ella and Joshua Farnsley
• Margo and Tyler Carlson, and Gage, Brix and Ivey Carlson
Also surviving are her siblings:
• Sister, Sheryl Leary, of Ione, Calif.
• Sister-in-law, Kathleen Thomson, of Speedway, Ind.
• Brother, John L Thomson and his life partner, Kim Jacobus McDonald, of Roswell, Ga.
• Sister, Jane and brother-in-law, Mark Marye, of Fairland, Ind.
• Brother, Mark Thomson and sister-in-law, Judy Sidebottom, of Cloverdale, Ind.
• Sister, Mary Ellen and brother-in-law, Joe Kutcher, of Indianapolis, Ind.
She also has seven nieces, two nephews, several grand-nieces and grand-nephews, and 58 cousins.
Her daughters and sons-in-law will host a visitation on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at David A. Hall Mortuary - Eric MD Bell, Funeral Director, 220 N. Maple St. in Pittsboro, Ind. Her son-in-law, funeral director and owner of the mortuary, Eric M.D. Bell, will handle arrangements. Memorial contributions may be made to the
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network or Croppin’ 4 a Cause.
* Joanie’s life story *
The third of seven children, Joanie was born Feb. 4, 1953, to Mary Gertrude Fassnacht Thomson and Robert Clare Thomson. The family of nine lived in Speedway, Ind., for all of Joanie’s young life. She graduated from Speedway High School in 1971.
After high school, Joanie’s first job was at Indiana National Bank. There she met Ruth Foreman (Gibson). This friendship would prove to be the longest-lasting and closest friendship of her lifetime. Forty-eight years later, Ruth was by her side on the day Joanie passed away.
Joanie attended Ball State University before marrying in 1974. Over the next several years, she gave birth to three daughters: Erin Clare Lambert (Bell), Corie Anna Lambert (Farnsley) and Margo Alana Rohn (Carlson).
An avid quilter, she founded a quilt shop, The Quilting Bee, in Danville, Ind., in 1984. She ran the store, taught numerous adults and children how to sew and enjoyed making her passion her purpose until 1986. At that point, her life circumstances had changed, and her career path changed, as well. She became a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service. She dedicated more than 24 years to the post office, retiring from the Speedway branch in 2011.
In March 1994, she married Richard Samuel Relf. He died later the same year, and she never remarried.
Joanie was a fervent fan of John Denver, an organization fanatic and a fighter in the best of ways. That fighting spirit was perhaps most evident at the end of her life, when she refused to give up and outlived the expectations of all who cared for her.
Joanie’s greatest love was her grandchildren. She enjoyed planning sleepovers that included popsicles, Pop Tarts and paint — and the kids and Nana were perpetually looking forward to the next time they could get together, make art, drink pop and stay up late before crashing on a pile of quilts on her bedroom floor.
Joanie was a talented artist, focusing primarily on the craft of quilting. She looked for ways to bless friends, family and strangers with her art and gave away dozens of quilts as gifts. She taught friends and relatives how to sew, and she belonged to various quilt guilds over time. She was a current member of Scrapbasket Quilt Guild and its beelet, The Fat Eighths.
For many years, she sold handmade, wall-hanging quilts at countless craft shows across Indiana. Later, she turned to jewelry-making, and for the last few years, her signature items were handmade necklaces featuring antique keys.
She also dabbled in mixed-media art. She swore she wasn’t great at it, but her children disagree. Her pieces were beautiful and often featured vibrant colors and inspiring quotations.
Joanie loved dogs and often shared her home with a whippet or two. She was thrilled to find and participate in a twice-yearly event that combined that love of dogs with her love of art. Croppin’ 4 a Cause, which raises funds for Every Dog Counts Rescue, was an event she held dear to her heart.
The two largest rooms in her house were devoted to a private crafting studio and a welcoming quilting room, where one could frequently find her sewing and laughing with friends and family. That room — and the people who gathered there — would remain a source of joy for her until her final weeks.
Joanie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on Nov. 30, 2018. But as cancer quickly wreaked its havoc on her body, her mind grew curiously happy. She handled the disease with grace and said more than once that she almost felt guilty feeling happy during this time when she felt she should have been sad. She found joy in the daily company of her daughters, their husbands and her grandchildren; her best friend, Ruth; her sister, Jane; her cousin, Mary; and her brother, John; as well as the frequent visits from other close family, close friends and cousins. Her daughters are especially grateful for those who helped fill her final months with so much joy.
Joanie died while under the care of the compassionate team at Life’s Journey hospice. After an earlier respite visit there, she knew that’s where she wanted to be when she took her last breath. She died in a beautiful room, with the sun shining on her face, lying under a blanket her granddaughter made her, holding the hand of her daughter, with a full schedule of visitors planned for the day.
Those left behind are thankful for her peaceful passing. Her children, grandchildren, extended family and friends mourn her departure from this earth but celebrate her eternity in heaven. She is finally free of the pain, discomfort and uncertainty of cancer.
May she rest in peace.
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
Every Dog Counts Rescue