Joan Forest

Date of Birth

January 4th, 1930

Date of Death

February 18th, 2020


Joan was born in San Francisco to a mother and father of Scottish and German ancestry, respectively. Her early memories included the completion of the Bay Bridge, and walking with her mother across the Golden Gate Bridge on its opening day. She rebelled early against the expectations for girls, refusing to make her brothers’ beds and clean up after them. In school, she felt different from her peers about clothing, conforming, competing and seeking popularity. Joining the Girl Scouts, for which she had to raise her own money, led to her lifelong love of nature.

After graduating from San Mateo High School, she attended Stanford, where she majored in history and literature, and earned a high school teaching certificate. After a year at the Free University of Berlin, she returned to Stanford, where she studied for a Master’s degree. While there, she met her future husband Walter Schneider, and the two of them took a class in Jesus as Teacher with Harry Rathbun, a Stanford professor who happened to be an attender at Palo Alto Friends Meeting. Joan also began attending, and soon joined that Meeting. During this time, she began volunteering with Friends Outside and the United Farm Workers.

In the mid-50s, while Joan was teaching at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, she and Walter were married in Stanford Chapel, and over the next few years became the parents of three energetic boys. During this time, Walter began experimenting with LSD under the guidance of Timothy Leary, which became a factor in the end of their marriage. Joan raised her sons as a single mother throughout their school years, supporting the family by substitute teaching, carefully matching her work schedule with the school hours of her children.

Joan had been given, by her parents, some land near Zayante in Santa Cruz County, and she moved to her vacation home there in 1976 with her youngest son, after her two older sons were no longer living at home. She began volunteering with the Resource Center for Nonviolence and Hospice, and served on the Ben Lomond Quaker Center Committee of AFSC. About this time, she changed her last name to Forest, the birth name of her maternal grandmother.

In 1980, Joan began training at the American Academy of Family Studies to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, and spent two summers at the Jung Institute in Switzerland, where she learned sand play therapy, which from then on became a feature of her work. During this time, she moved to a house in Felton, and had an office in the nearby Redwood Therapy Center. She informed her clients that she would be absent for a month each year during which she would pursue, by travel, her desire to know and better appreciate people throughout the world. By the end of her life, she had visited 55 countries, at times with one or more of her children and grandchildren, experienced four total eclipses of the sun, and lived through an earthquake, tsunami, typhoon and wild fire. Amidst all this, she found time to be clerk of Santa Cruz Friends Meeting from 1986 to 1988, and also joined a group of wise older women called Crones, whose annual meeting she attended for 25 years.

In 2001, Joan moved to Oak Creek, Arizona where she made her home on a rural parcel, with a studio for her therapy practice. There she had two dogs, two cats, chickens, a garden and fruit trees. Living an hour from the nearest Friends Meeting in Flagstaff, she was moved to organize the Verde Valley Worship Group closer to home.

Joan was an original investor in Friends House in Santa Rosa, and in 2013 she moved there, fully intending that would be her last move. She served on a number of resident committees while there, but after six years missed her family in Santa Cruz enough that she returned there to be a resident at La Posada, an independent-living community.

Joan described her spiritual unfolding as being lifelong, and in her last years created the Journey of Discovery, a 354-page life story describing her many adventures. Making few friends at La Posada, Joan wanted to return to Friends House, but contracted cancer in late 2019, and decided not to treat it with invasive chemo or radiation therapies. Joan died peacefully in her room at La Posada, with her son Karl holding her hand, and her grandchildren and their mother, at that very moment on a highway in Colorado, encouraging her to complete her passing. Joan is survived by her sons Phrenly, Karl, and Paul, her grandchildren Kai and Kira, and her daughter-in-law Vanessa.