Joan Searles

Obituary of Joan C. Searles


Joan (Jo) C. Searles died at the age of 96 on March 10, 2023.

At the time of her death, Jo resided in Green Valley, Arizona. She died peacefully in her sleep, her health complicated by Alzheimer’s and peripheral artery disease. Jo was born on November 16, 1926, in Arkansas City, Kansas, the first child of Harry and Nadine Cooper. The family moved to Brooklyn, New York and later to Minneapolis, Minnesota. She attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota; when her family moved to northern California, she transferred to the University of California at Berkeley. In 1948, she married John (Jack) E. Searles, a graduate student at Stanford University whom she had first met on a blind date at Carleton. She wore a wedding gown hand sewn by her mother.

Jo gave birth to four children while in California during the 1950s. When her husband, by then a professor at the California State University, Long Beach, was assigned to teach in a graduate school in Brazil, the family lived in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, from 1959 to 1961. Jo loved Brazilian culture. She made many friends and learned to play the guitar, a passion she pursued for the rest of her life. Upon return to the United States, Jack was hired by the Pennsylvania State University and the family moved to State College, Pennsylvania.

When her youngest child was 12, Jo returned to school and earned a doctorate from Penn State. She was then hired as a member of the faculty in the English Departments at the Penn State campuses at Altoona and Beaver, Pennsylvania.

Following her retirement in 1993, Jo continued writing and lecturing, with the focus on the writings of older women and women’s spirituality. She and Jack traveled extensively, including Portugal, Malaysia, Jamaica and Greece, while absorbing knowledge of women’s arts, crafts, cultures, and goddess figures. During their travels, they discovered Tucson, Arizona and eventually purchased a home there. For many years, they enjoyed the climate in Tucson and developed a strong network of friends. Jack passed away in 2012.

Jo leaves behind her children David (Sachiyo), Carly (Jim), Sarah (Karl) and Gordon (Julie), her grandchildren Brenna, Soren, Nathan, Peter, Andrew, Conor and Leslie, and her great-grandchildren Leo and Ruby, Madelyn and George, Jack and Maya, Forrest and Asher.

Contributions in Jo’s memory can be made to the Women’s Studies Advocacy Council (WOSAC) at the University of Arizona, or the charity of your choice.

The donation link for WOSAC is: