Remembering Joan Mraz, 1935-2014: Southwest Seattle Historical Society co-founder

Joan Mraz “was the ultimate volunteer,” recalls Clay Eals, executive director of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, which he says she co-founded as “the catalyst who crucially transformed founder Elliott Couden’s dream into a reality when we got our start 30 years ago, based at South Seattle Community College (13 years before we opened the Log House Museum).” Ms. Mraz died this week at 78, and a memorial gathering is planned March 9th. Here’s a remembrance shared by her family:

Joan Bailey Mraz, beloved mother, grandmother, sister and lifelong West Seattle resident, passed away peacefully on Feb. 24, 2014, at Providence Mount St. Vincent. She was the firstborn twin of Ruth and Glen Bailey on July 29, 1935.

She was senior-class president and graduated in the class of 1953 from West Seattle High School. Joan won an art scholarship to Seattle University, from which she graduated with a bachelor of arts. She went on to teach art and art history at South Seattle Community College and was co-founder and former president of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.

Joan was a fighter. She received a kidney transplant in 1989, which lasted the rest of her life.

She was preceded in death by her loving husband Elemer Mraz in 1996 and son Steven Roger Mraz in 2008. She is survived by her twin sister Diane Tice of Seattle, daughter Kristina (Graham) van Etten of Sydney, Australia, son Oscar (Nicole Devine) Mraz of Seattle and Mark (Bridget) Mraz of Edmonds. Joan was a proud grandmother to Lauren, Jordan and Nathan van Etten of Sydney, Australia, Marguerite Devine-Mraz of Seattle and Lukas and Kellen Mraz of Edmonds. She will always be remembered for her smile, caring attitude, love and deep affection for others.

The family asks that remembrances may be made to Northwest Kidney Centers (PO Box 3035, Seattle, WA 98114) or Southwest Seattle Historical Society (Log House Museum, 3003 61st Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116).

A celebration of Joan’s life will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 9, 2014, at St Paul’s of Shorewood Lutheran Church, 11620 21st Ave S.W., Seattle, WA, 98146. Please sign Joan’s online guestbook at

The SWSHS website will have an extended obituary of Ms. Mraz sometime this weekend, and we’ll link to it here when it’s available. Meantime, anyone wishing to honor her through volunteer work with the SWSHS has an opportunity to do so almost immediately – the next volunteer-orientation session is 11 am-1 pm tomorrow (Saturday) at the LHM (61st/Stevens).

ADDED SUNDAY NIGHT: The aforementioned SWSHS appreciation of Ms. Mraz is now published – see it here.

4 Replies to "Remembering Joan Mraz, 1935-2014: Southwest Seattle Historical Society co-founder"

  • Nichole February 28, 2014 (11:56 pm)

    I had the pleasure of knowing Joan when she was my resident in Assisted Living and I served as her Activity Director. She lit up a room! I was so very sad when she needed more care then we could provide and she moved on. She was so gracious, full of love and support for all my ideas and adventures with my Seniors. She was pretty ill but always participated with gusto or bowed out with grace. Very sad to hear of her passing.

  • miws March 1, 2014 (7:43 am)

    Condolences to Joan’s family and loved ones.

    And thank you, Joan, for your contribution to preserving West Seattle History.



  • Carol Vincent March 2, 2014 (5:38 pm)

    I can’t imagine not sharing another cup of tea with my close friend. Joan and I worked our way through so much over the past 25 years, whether it was SWSHS Board, Log House Museum development or personal and family issues. She was always the kindest, wisest and most thoughtful person I’ve ever known and she never, but never, said an unkind word about anyone. Our world will be a much sadder place without her. She is truly irreplaceable. Rest in peace my dearest friend.

  • Kris Chesterfield Ohanu March 9, 2014 (6:59 pm)

    My heart to everyone in the family ~~ Joan was my Godmother – and one of the most loving women I have ever met or had the privilege of knowing. Joan was the wisest, most giving, understanding and beautiful person ~~ She touched so many hearts, gave so much of herself to each and every person she knew — Her spirit will always be a part of me, memories of Joan and her family in my heart always. My love to everyone – Blessings

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