Joan Ware: 1927 – 2008
PHOTO COURTESY OF LINDA PETERSON
Joan Ware, a long-time Topanga resident and community activist.
One of the most beautiful spirits of the Canyon, Joan Ware, passed away on November 14th, in Valencia, after a brief illness. Beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, cherished friend and neighbor, Joanie’s wonderful and loving nature was treasured by everyone who knew her. Joanie moved to Topanga Canyon with her husband, Harold ‘Bud’ Ware, and their four young children in 1954. Joan was a board member and secretary for the Topanga Historical Society and a former President of the Topanga Canyon Elementary School PTA, one of the charter members of the Commodore Computer Club where she acted as secretary in the early days of the industry. She was also a J. Paul Getty docent and after raising her children, worked as a Jafra Consultant.
Born in Los Angeles on December 27, 1927, Joan grew up in Monterey Park. Her father was a professor of physics at the University of Southern California and her mother, who graduated with a degree in nutrition, was a homemaker, but worked as a “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II. Joan’s father was the director of the Monterey Park Drum and Bugle Corps and as a girl she played the bugle and marched in the Corps.
Bud grew up in Whittier, not far from his future wife, and was a member of the Whittier Drum and Bugle Corps and although they didn’t know each other at the time, they both marched at the 1939 World’s Fair in the Bay Area on Treasure Island. “They were dainty girls and we were rowdy boy scouts.” Bud recounted. They eventually met while students attending what is now UC Santa Barbara. Bud was introduced to Joanie “when a friend of mine asked me to pick up a friend of his girlfriend,” and he began driving a carpool of five students from Monterey Park to the college in Santa Barbara.
“There were three boys in the front seat of my blue convertible ’37 Ford and Joanie was one of the two girls in the back seat. We drove back and forth for a while, and soon Joanie was in the front seat by the window. We drove back and forth for a while longer, and then she was sitting next to me.” They eloped in May, 1948.
The Ware family was lured to Topanga in 1954 by their dear friend, renowned artist and writer, Burt duAime. duAime, who lived in the Canyon, then, wrote under the pen name William Wharton and was the author of Birdy and Dad, both of which were made into films. The duAime family still owns a large parcel up on Henry’s Ridge.
Bud and Joanie loved to swing dance and were introduced to the swing clubs in Santa Monica by Harriet Swenson. Bud remembers the Swenson pizza parties well: “She’d play piano at the parties Nancy Swenson threw. Harriett was the one who always got us dancing—she got us enthralled.” They would go dancing at the Miramar Hotel twice a week until just recently. “We danced when the music was real slow and real fast—the Count Basie four-beat tempos. Otherwise, we’d sit down or go get refreshment.”
Bud taught math at Palisades High School for 36 years before retiring about 25 years ago. He was also the basketball and tennis coach. In 1959 and 1960, Bud went on sabbatical and took his family to Europe. “This was the high point of the Ware family,” Bud said. “The children were 10, eight, six and four. I outfitted a Volkswagen camper with a kitchen and bunks and we drove from Naples to Copenhagen.” They spent three months living in the Cotswolds in a small village.
PHOTO COURTESY OF BUD WARE
The Ware family ships off to Europe during Bud’s sabitcal year (1959-60). (left to right): Joan, John (8), Sally (10), Nancy (6), Linda (4) and Bud.
Bud rebuilt the house they have lived in for 54 years and added on the tennis court, which they generously shared with the neighborhood. Joanie loved to play tennis. Many Topanga children were coached by Bud, and Joanie, who was always a gracious hostess, would reward them with whatever treats were growing in her garden at the time: sweet Satsuma tangerines, peaches, nectarines, apricots, strawberries. “My mom loved to garden,” said her youngest daughter, Linda Petersen. “Her garden was astonishing—all the beautiful work her husband did in it. Just magical,” her neighbor, Rosi Dagit recalled. “My son spent a lot of time there picking up pinecones. Every spring she would show up at my door with a tray of little tomato plants started in Dixie cups.”
Joan was a wonderful friend. Kathy Virkler met Joanie at the Republican Woman’s Club in Topanga. The group enjoyed such guest speakers in the Canyon as Nancy Reagan when she was First Lady of California. Kathy and Joan quickly became best friends and eventually travelling companions. Virkler recalls driving across country with Joanie visiting their friends and family including duAime in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. They enjoyed walks together and Virkler remembers Joan’s kindness. “She would bring baskets of fruit from her garden to the homeless who gathered at a picnic table at Will Rogers Beach.” Virkler recalled.
Ami Kirby, curator of the Topanga Historical Society, is very grateful for Joanie’s hard work as board member and secretary. “The thing about Joanie with her wonderful computer skills was that she modernized the THS. She created a database for us and she would format and produce our quarterly program announcements. Everything she did was done beautifully, nice and clean, accurate and tight, and on time. Joanie and Kathy were close to Pearl Sloan and although Joan was a very private person, I sort of pushed myself into their circle.”
“She and Bud were so welcoming,” Dagit said. “They were the guardian angels up the street.” There are many families in Fernwood who will hold memories of Joanie’s thoughtfulness and kindness dear in their hearts.
“I am so proud of my mom for her computer programming skills,” wrote her son, John Ware, “She taught herself programming using the language Basic, on a PC back in the DOS days (before Windows). I remember she wrote one that would prompt the user for the quantity of each food item consumed in a day and calculate the calories. Another was an application used in the Soil Conservation District office to do accounting and contact list organizing.
“She was quite the seamstress, making outfits for us kids; matching dresses and bathing suits for the three girls and a matching shirt with collar for me. I remember hand-knit wool mukluks. She had a knitting machine (hand propelled) that could crank out a sweater, cable stitch and all, in a couple of days.
“She would recite poetry at bedtime. Two that I remember vividly are The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service and Annabelle Lee by Edgar Allan Poe. Sweet dreams, kids!
“She had a great recipe for Lemon Pie (which I served in my cafe in Hawaii, with lime substituted for lemon and named Key Lime Pie), German Chocolate Cake (my favorite of course), peanut butter cookies, a shortbread cookie topped with chopped walnuts named Ware Family Treasure, tacos and enchiladas, yummy beef stew and pot roast with mashed potatoes. She taught us to play some card games, gin rummy and solitaire.
“She was the best Mom there ever was.”
Joanie leaves behind her husband, Bud, and their four children, Sally Wilkins of Oxnard, California, John Ware, of Denver, Colorado, Nancy Rosewood of Calpine, California, and Linda Petersen of Valencia, California; her daughter-in-law Judy Ware and her sons-in-law, Russell Rosewood and Michael Petersen; her brother, Walter ‘Bud’ Broadwell of Mission Hills, and her sister-in-law, Virginia Stowe; her ten grandchildren: Scott Petersen, Kurt Petersen, Sara Wilkins, Meghan Rosewood, Jasmine Stephens, Mark Petersen, Shannon Wilkins, Brittany Stephens, Mariah Ware and Erik Ware and her four great-grandchildren—Coby Petersen, Daphne Ball, Katie Petersen, and Connor Petersen.