August 10, 2018 at 12:10 p.m.
She is survived by her husband David; son Andrew Milles, his wife Alyson and granddaughters Abigail, Annabelle and Andrea; daughter Heather (Milles) Wood, her husband Andrew and granddaughters Kaitlin and Dannan, and grandson Alex; and sister Catherine (Pitzl) Hartmann of Saratoga, California. Joan was preceded in death by her father Alcuin Pitzl and mother Maythol (Distad) Pitzl.
Joan was born on June 18, 1947 in Mankato, MN. She attended public school there and graduated from Mankato High School in 1965. Joan always wanted to be a physical therapist and began her journey to achieve that goal at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 1965. She met her future husband David that fall while taking her first biology class. Over the next year, Joan and David would often run into each other while travelling between the St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses on the inter-campus bus. David finally asked her out on their first date in October of 1966... and they have been together ever since.
In August of 1967 David asked Joan to be his wife and they were engaged shortly before David left to spend five months managing the United States Antarctic Research Program biology and earth science labs at McMurdo Station on Ross Island in Antarctica. Upon David’s return from “the ice”, they were married in St. Paul, Minnesota on March 16, 1968. Joan and David went on to complete their senior year at the U of M and Joan graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy in June, 1969.
Joan took her first job as a Physical therapist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul shortly after graduation. In September, she and David moved to Orono, Maine where David began graduate school at the University of Maine and she took a job as a physical therapist at Eastern Maine General Hospital. They returned to Minnesota in 1970 when David took a job with the Minnesota Geological Survey while attending graduate school at the U of M. Joan went back to St. Joseph’s Hospital for a short time and then took a position at St. Paul-Ramsey Hospital, where she worked until the birth of their son Andrew, in February of 1972.
Joan and David lived in Hugo, MN until their daughter Heather was born in May of 1974. Within a week of Heather’s birth, they moved to Rochester, MN where David had taken a promotion with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. They built their first house in Elgin, MN in early 1975. However, David was offered a management position with the DNR at their St. Paul headquarters within three months of moving into the new house. That home was sold by the end of the summer and Joan and David began building a second house in Stacy, MN later that fall. They moved into their new Stacy home in January of 1976 and have resided there ever since.
When their son Andrew began school in 1977, Joan took a job as a part-time physical therapist at Chisago Lakes Hospital in Lindstrom, MN. That position soon turned into a full-time job and within several years became the Director of Rehabilitation Services with a large staff serving under Joan’s supervision. Joan stayed with Chisago Lakes Health Services until June of 1993, when the hospital became part of Fairview Health Services and Joan (and most of the other department heads) was forced out to make way for Fairview’s new management team. Joan enjoyed a brief one-month sabbatical before taking a staff physical therapist position with United Hospital in St. Paul. Joan went on to specialize in hands-on back and spine therapy and became affiliated with Allina’s Sister Kinney Institute next to United Hospital. Joan retired from Allina and her long and successful career as a physical therapist, shortly after her mother’s death in September of 2005.
Joan and David shared many adventures during their 52 years together, including many trips to collect fossils, go camping, fishing, hunting and SCUBA diving. As their family grew, the children joined them in these excursions. Joan always enjoyed nature and built several flower gardens surrounding their rural Stacy home. She especially enjoyed living with the wildlife that frequented their back yard... everything from song birds to the occasional Bear.
Besides children, grandchildren and a large extended family, Joan had MANY friends and neighbors sharing her life. She enjoyed visiting with them and partaking in shared interests like pottery-making, sewing, gardening, scrapbooking and quilting. Unfortunately, as her struggle with Alzheimer’s disease progressed, she was forced to give up many of these activities.
In the final analysis, Joan had a very full and fulfilling life. She enjoyed enormous love and affection from all her family and friends and gave that same love and affection back to all of them. Joan was David’s best friend, soul-mate, life companion and beloved wife. She was her children’s and grandchildren’s devoted and beloved “Mamma Joan”. We will all miss her and never forget her. We were blessed and honored to share her life with her.
A visitation will take place from 10 a.m. until noon on Saturday, August 11, 2018 at the Grandstrand Funeral Home in North Branch with a sharing of memories at 11:30 a.m. A private family interment will take place at a later date.
Arrangements are under the direction and care of Grandstrand Funeral Home in North Branch. Condolences maybe expressed online at www.grandstrandfh.com
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