One of the things that struck me about today's memorial gathering for Joan Van Stone was that a couple of people who were a few years ahead of me in high school spoke about how great it was that the Van Stones had opened their house and their hearts to, among other people, their kids' friends. What struck me about that is that when I met the family six or eight years after the period those folks were talking about, all of what they said was still true; and from what others said, it continued to be true later as well.
That household was a tremendously accepting and comfortable place. They weren't the only family who nurtured us kids, gave us space to grow into who we were, but they were certainly one of the centers that our group revolved around. A friend commented (I'm paraphrasing rather a lot here) that Joan had given her the respect and freedom of an adult while giving her the nurturing and encouragement a teenager might need; that rang true for me, too, in smaller ways. I never knew Joan well, and I didn't see her more than once or twice after high school, but she was important to me.
Another thing that struck me was that in all the years I've known that family, I had no idea that Joan was co-founder of the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View, a nonprofit arts education center that provides "art and music programs for all ages, skill levels and interests year-round," regardless of economic status. I vaguely knew that she did accounting for nonprofits (and, later, that she was heavily involved with the Washington DC chapter of PFLAG), but I'd never heard of the CSMA, and definitely didn't know she'd been one of the major guiding lights for the organization.
Memorial gatherings are, in my limited experience, filled with a weird mix of laughter and tears. Both are important, I think. Today there were lots of hugs, and chances to reconnect with old friends and friendly acquaintances who I hadn't seen in many years (including one of the funniest people I know), and I gave David a long back rub. It felt like a reunion of sorts, only the occasion was rather more somber than most reunions.
Anyway. I don't think I really have anything in particular to say here. Except: Joan, you made a lot of people's lives better, including mine. I hope those of us you touched can follow in your footsteps in that regard. We'll miss you.