A Life in Caring: Native American Nurse Joanne Campbell Passes Away at 91

Joanne Campbell, RN, PHN passed away peacefully on June 21 after a 5-year battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 91.

Joanne Marilyn Ross CampbellJoanne Marilyn Ross Campbell:

June 11, 1931 – June 21, 2022.

Joanne was born at home in Lakeport, California, on June 11, 1931, to Joseph and Anna (Santos) Ross. Soon after, Joanne and family moved to their beloved ranch on Big Valley Road in Finley, California. It was a place where she fondly remembered growing up in the family’s orchards surrounded by siblings Kenneth, Leona (Newman), Lois (Thorne), and Judith (Davidson). She and her sisters also comprised the entire choir at St. Mary’s Church in Lakeport with Joanne eventually taking over piano duties as well.

Joanne, always the stellar student, graduated school in Lakeport at the top of her class receiving a Doyle Scholarship to attend Santa Rosa Junior College. It was there she started her career with a pre-nursing program, graduating in 1952. Upon graduation, she was accepted at both Stanford University and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) nursing schools, choosing UCSF for practical reasons — she would graduate 6 months earlier than the Stanford program with both RN and PHN (Public Health Nurse) degrees. She graduated in 1955. At the end of her nursing internship, she attended a 6-month position at the Queen’s Hospital of Nervous Diseases in London, which began in 1958. This would lead to her lifetime passion for traveling. After the internship, she joined three of her eventual lifelong friends in a Volkswagen bug and toured Europe for 6 months—it was the trip of her life. Upon her return, she turned down a nursing position in Connecticut and accepted a position with the City and County of San Francisco as a Public Health Nurse in 1960. She would make San Francisco her home for the rest of her life.

It was during this time she met her future husband, James (Jim) Campbell, a third-generation San Franciscan. They married in December, 1961. The next chapter of her life began when she gave birth to her oldest son Timothy in 1962, Brian in 1964 (a short move south to Daly City in 1965), and Robert in 1967. Her boys were her pride and joy in life and became her sole focus after the untimely death of Jim in 1973. She raised the three boys by herself in Daly City attending as many baseball, basketball, and band concerts as humanly possible, eventually putting all of them through college. She retired from nursing in 1992, but she did not stay idle for long.

As a tribal citizen of Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, she was elected to the Tribal Council in 1998 where she served multiple terms over 18 years, retiring in 2016 to spend more time with the second love of her life, Young Smith. While serving on the Tribal Council she was passionate about the tribe’s federal restoration, cultural revitalization projects including tribal language learning programs (Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo) and sharing traditional basketry skills.

She served on the initial boards of directors for the California Indian Basketweavers’ Association (CIBA) and the San Francisco Quilting Guild. She was an avid quilter as well as a Giants, 49ers, and Warriors fan throughout her entire life. She was also a great friend, aunt, mother, and grandmother. She never stopped being a nurse and continued to look after and help many families and friends right up until her passing.

She is survived by her three sons, Timothy (Bonnie), Brian (Carla), and Robert (Tina), her sister Leona Newman of Oak Harbor, Washington, as well as her 6 grandchildren (James, Ethan, Kayla, Miles, Emily, Chase), numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, and close friends. A funeral Mass was held at Church of the Good Shepherd in Pacifica, CA on July 7. Private burial will follow at a later date. A Celebration of Life gathering in Sonoma County will be held later this year.

Memorial donations may be made in her name to St. Vincent de Paul Society of San Mateo County at www.svdpsm.org, or 50 North B Street, San Mateo, CA 94401, 650-373-0622.

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