Cover photo for Joan Fraser's Obituary
Joan Fraser Profile Photo

Joan Fraser

January 17, 1936 — February 13, 2023

Joan Bartlett Fraser was born January 17th, 1936, to G. Donald Bartlett and Teresa (Shea) Bartlett in Willimantic, Connecticut. Joan completed primary school in Willimantic and later Windham High School, graduating in 1953. The friendships she acquired while in her years of early education and later in upper class studies at Willimantic State Teachers College were always dear to her. Even when she lived in the Western part of the U.S. she always managed to travel “back home” for various reunions and other occasions.

One of Joan’s early forays into gainful employment was as a junior member of the sports department and proofreader at the Willimantic Daily Chronicle Newspaper. It was here that she acquired a lifelong affinity for all sports, both men’s and women’s, and especially the University of Connecticut girls’ basketball team. One of her colleagues at the newspaper was sportswriter Wells Twombly who went on to bigger things with the Houston Oilers and finally the sportswriter for the San Francisco Chronicle. In later years when Joan’s husband worked in the San Francisco area they renewed the friendship with Wells and his wife and on occasion they would enjoy the San Francisco nightlife after the Chronical went to press. She was somewhat of an undocumented authority on sports history. She always seemed to mention, when in discussion about sports, that the Willimantic football coach had played football at Fordham University with renowned NFL Coach Vince Lombardi. One of Joan’s fondest moments was an invitation to a sports banquet and sitting at the head table with Green Bay’s former quarterback Bart Starr.

Joan’s adult life included three wonderful children, Kathleen, Shaun and Denise, and her husband Bob. Joan met her husband, Bob Fraser, in the 1950s after he returned from duty in the United States Marine Corps as a fighter pilot. It was back to college so Bob could finish his degree and then   in 1961 they moved to Seattle, Washington where Bob was employed with the Boeing Aircraft Company. The family settled in the small fishing village of Gig Harbor on Puget Sound and the children attended school in the local schools until venturing on to higher studies in various Universities.

In 1965 Bob left Boeing and joined Pan American World Airways as a pilot which started Joan’s life as a “vagabond “world traveler. As a young girl, in Willimantic, Joan dreamed of traveling the world and she sent for and read every travel magazine she could. With PAN AM now at her fingertips she managed to do just that. Early on, when the children were away in college, Joan traveled to most of the countries in the Far East in addition to the South Pacific islands.  Joan was particularly fond of the islands of the South Pacific and spent time in places like Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji, and The Kingdom of Tonga on her way to New Zealand and Australia. In 1980, after the children had left home to begin their lives, Joan and her husband transferred to Berlin, West Germany where PAN AM had a small base in the Western part of the occupied city. At that time, the city of Berlin was still occupied by the Allies (Great Britten, France, U.S., and Russia) since the end of WW II.  Berlin, however, was located about 120 miles inside the Russian zone due to a geographical error in 1945. The safest way for West Germans to travel to and from Berlin to the West was to fly. Pan Am flew from West Berlin to all major cities in both East Bloc and West Bloc countries.

The original plan was to stay in Europe for just a year or two but at Joan’s urging they stayed in Berlin for almost 10 years. Joan lived every minute of those years. She became interested in European history and had the opportunity to visit the actual areas she was studying at the moment. After studying early European history Joan settled on the Second World War as her passion and she traveled to both the East Bloc and the West as part of her studies. She had a future book in mind while she re-lived the horrors and hardships of war but that never took place. Joan was privileged to be able to travel behind the “Iron Curtain” on a minute’s notice because her passport listed her as a resident of Berlin. Consequently, whenever the opportunity presented itself, she could travel to cities like Budapest, Warsaw, Belgrade, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, and other such cities.

Upon returning to the United States and after almost 30 years with PAN AM, Joan and Bob sold their home on Puget Sound and returned to Montana, where Bob was raised. They built a retirement home on Flathead Lake near Glacier National Park in Northwest Montana and there they settled in for about 25 years until moving into Buffalo Hills Terrace assisted living in Kalispell Montana for their remaining years.

Joan was preceded in death by her parents and her older sister, Lucy Bartlett Crosbie, and her husband Arthur (Bud) Crosbie. Joan is survived by husband Bob,  Kathleen, Shaun and Denise. There have been good and not so good years, but one should only remember the good years. There was even a time when Joan and Bob owned part of a dude ranch on the perimeter of a large wilderness area in Montana that produced memories that will last a lifetime – and so they have.

At Joan’s request there will be no services. It is her further request that her ashes be sprinkled over her favorite spot in the middle of the Bob Marshal Wilderness – Big Prairie Airport.

It is the family’s request that any donations sent in Joan’s name be to charities of your choice or to the Alert Helicopter Unit at Kalispell Regional Hospital in Kalispell, MT.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Joan Fraser, please visit our flower store.


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