Born on November 21, 1934, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Joan was the oldest of six children. Allen and Dorothy Muirhead, her hard-working, loving parents provided the rich culture of ranch life in the beautiful Yampa Valley, high in the Rocky Mountains. She learned love and respect for horses and ranching from her father and the love of books and reading from her mother.
Joan cherished those gifts throughout her life and shared them with others. She often read volumes of great fiction to her younger siblings and involved them in storytelling games where she created gripping stories on the spot and encouraged sisters and brothers to do the same.
Joan graduated high school at the head of her class. She worked at various jobs since she was just fourteen years of age. She spent more than thirty years working as a paralegal. She married young, raised two children, and always kept the love of books, reading, and writing alive. She took night classes at the University of Colorado, Boulder, studying psychology and English Writing. Over her lifetime, she produced a large collection of short stories, essays, articles, and a novel, Absaroka, Where the Anguish of a Soldier Meets the Land of the Crow, which won a prestigious IPPY award honorable mention in Best Regional Fiction for the Mountain West from the Independent Publishers Group. This book has been published in trade paperback and as an ebook (called The Wild Horses of Absaroka) and an audio book, (Absaroka, From War to Wyoming). She narrated Miranda and Starlight, a book her sister wrote, which was recently released on CDs.
Joan took lessons and got her pilots license in 1967. She loved to fly and never missed a chance to climb into a private airplane, take to the air, and soar among the clouds. Besides flying, riding horses, reading, and writing, Joan enjoyed skiing, playing golf, hiking, and camping. She loved spending time with her children, Debbie Tanner and Gary Zimmerman, and her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She especially liked holidays and events that brought her large extended family together. Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday.
She was a member of the Grace Place Church, in Berthoud, Colorado, where her faith and her family of friends and loyal supporters grew and flourished.
Joan left several unpublished stories and the beginnings of three or four novels that she didn't get time to finish. Her death is a loss to not only her friends, family, and fans, but to the world of great literature.
Joan was my sister, my idol, my mentor, role model, and best friend. Even as I miss her, I am also grateful that she has finally escaped the ravages of cancer that kept her in pain for so long. Rest in peace, dear Joan.
Janet Muirhead HIll