Joan Austin died on June 5, 2013 at the age of 81. She was a friend of mine; that put me in the excellent company of literally thousands of people across Oregon and the rest of the United States. Those people ranged from former Presidents of the United States to clerical staff at her office.
She was a wife, mother, grandmother, a great-grandmother-in-waiting, and a tireless and generous benefactor to Oregon’s many charities. Oh yes, she was also the business genius behind the creation and growth of A-DEC, the largest privately held dental equipment manufacturer in America. She and husband Ken – the technical wizard – began their venture in a Quonset hut in Newberg and grew it into a worldwide industry leader. And then when she was in her 70’s Joan envisioned, planned and built The Allison – Oregon’s premier resort and spa which sits at the doorway to Oregon’s famed Yamhill wine country.
At Joan’s memorial service last Saturday, her life was summarized in a reading from Proverbs 31:10-31:
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it: out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
And for those yet to test their own meddle in the hard scrabble competitive world Joan offered this advice:
“Life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy. Go find what you love and then give it everything you’ve got!”
Oregon has lost a great treasure. Heaven is richer for her presence and Oregon is poorer for her passing.