This is what she made. With her hands, her head, and her heart, Joe Ann Derler made a whole life of gathered stories that have expanded across time and geographies, and whose making won’t ever end.
She made the quilts under which her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren sleep. She made the paintings that hang on our walls and the bags we carry to school and work. She made Southern Californians fall in love with her recipes after opening one of the first health food stores in South Pasadena with her sister. She made it seem wildly easy to fall in love, laugh, and to choose adventure.
She made it possible to be both deeply rooted and full of wanderlust, proving that to be domestic, one needn’t devote a life to one place. She made our houses feel like homes — organizing our cupboards, painting our walls and furniture, arranging our pillows, sewing our blankets and hotpads. And yet, she made home something not dependent on place, herself living on a boat for 12 years and on the road for 9, traveling the Pacific and across the country, while embodying a connectedness to home.
She made the perfect lemon meringue pie and cinnamon rolls from the leftover pie dough.
And for her grandkids, she made the 1960s and 1970s California the perfect picture of nostalgic cool.
But most important, she made a family whose love and impact are spinning new, lasting stories. She nurtured a family of 6 children who knew her as Mom, 12 grandchildren who knew her as Grandma, Nana and Curly Head Grandma, and 14 great-grandchildren who knew her as GG.
Her hands, her head, and her heart made all of this.
She is survived by the new stories that are being written by her family.
Joe Ann was born in Oxnard, Calif., to James Botford Stephens and Bernice Exie Cole Fisher. She had two sisters, Mary Lou Delaney (deceased) and Wanda Lyn Hogate and later a stepfather, Harmon Ancil Fisher, and two step-siblings, Sterling Fisher and Goldena McDaniel. She was married to Don Peterson (1947-1956), Ralph Turner (1956-1979), and Robert Derler (1992-2006). She raised six children — Dana Peterson, Noel Peterson, Lorri Busse, Jayme Turner (deceased), Matthew Turner, and Jason Turner — and saw the births of 12 grandchildren — Kelly and Katie Peterson; Graham and Stefan Peterson; Noah and Orian Busse; Heather, Amanda, Caitlyn, Lindsey, Madeline, and Brittany Turner; and 14 great-grandchildren — Hunter Parkhurst; Wenonah Webster; Savannah and Kai Peterson; Henry Busse, Karissa, Chase, Maeley, Camila Gonzales, Taylor and Abby Turner, Sophie, Paul Jr. O’Donnell., and Brody Aday.