Joan (Joani) Marie Braun, age 88 of Elk Rapids, MI, died with grace and peace during a beautiful sunset on December 11, 2021. James Braun, her devoted husband of 39 years, along with her children, and extended family were gathered around to help ease her end-of-life transition and to witness the release of her love into the universe. She had continued to live to “seize the day”, 2 and ½ years beyond her initial diagnosis of advanced stage lung cancer.
She was born in Skokie, IL in 1933 to the late George and Marian Streit, and later grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan where she attended High School. Jim Braun was a classmate, destined to meet her again at a 30-year high school reunion. Many people followed her positive energy as she moved north to Elk Rapids, including siblings; her life-long “potluck group” friends consisting of five special families: Prydes, Celovskys, Carlsons, Lowrances, and the Highlands, and of course, the love of her life, husband, James Braun.
As an adventurous 18-year-old, Joani traveled the west coast, modeled in L.A, and worked with ski legends at Alta, Utah. She was mentored by mountaineer Dolores La Chapelle and carried down the mountain after a broken ankle by head of the Alta ski school Alf Engan powder skiing pioneer and record breaking ski jumper. Joani got the ski bug and was a skiing enthusiast throughout her life. She afforded lift tickets and ski equipment for her family by joining the National Ski Patrol, working as a ski instructor and working at Don Orr’s Ski Haus. Joani volunteered on the National Ski Patrol for 30 years, becoming a senior patroller and earning her national number which is the highest honor amongst patrollers. When skiing was no longer an option, Joani donned snow shoes and watched grandkids race at Mt. Holiday.
Art was a constant in her life from her first career as a commercial artist working as an illustrator on automotive accounts for Detroit advertising agencies to becoming a fine artist and consummate watercolorist winning many accolades. She loved sessions with artist contemporaries as well as her art residencies in France. In her “Road Kill” paintings, she honored animals killed on the highway with a farewell blessing and a beautiful depiction.
She believed in community service and taking care of one another. She worked as an EMT volunteer with the Elk Rapids Rescue Squad. A highlight was responding to an emergency call to deliver a baby en route to the hospital. She also worked as a nurse’s aide in the hospital and in home care while she took classes at NMC. Joani is also remembered as Elk Rapids Harbor Master, an optical industry sales rep, Mullaly’s 128 Studio artist and associate, Twisted Fish artist, and Guntzviller’s Spirit of the Woods sales associate and docent. She volunteered at The Music House, Elk Rapids Schools, Right Tree organization, Ravens Hill, My Father’s Love and perhaps her favorite— Chalfonte House, started by life-long priest-friend now deceased Rev. Jim Meyer.
Joani was like a magic mirror. She reflected back our best self and endeared us with a prank or two. She was a lover of good company, sunsets, martinis, Klondike bars, and Don's Drive-In milkshakes. Her iconic zebra car was blessed by parking angels that sometimes took liberties when in pursuit of a good painting spot.
Joani’s “joie de vivre” is cherished by her husband, James Braun; their proud children, Daniel (Shannon) Williams, Jenifer (Matt) Thomas, Chad (Kathy) Williams, Lindy Bishop, Tracy (Keith) Zahller, Nicky Tobin, and Jim (Mary Jo) Braun; 21 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren; siblings, Lois (Tom) MacGregor, Robert Streit, Richard Streit, and Susan Tschudy. Joani is preceded in death by son, Michael Braun, son-in-law Ron Brodeur, sister-in-law, Charlotte Streit and ex-husband Charles Williams.
The family gives honor and many thanks to Joani's big, beautiful extended family, her life-long friends, and the supporting community. We would also like to thank the Traverse City Munson Home Hospice Team which so compassionately helped us care for Joani.
We will have a celebration of Joani's life at the Walk of Art Sculpture Park at Elk Rapids, MI this summer on June 25, 2022.
Arrangements are being handled by The Central Lake Chapel of Mortenson Funeral Homes. Online Guest Book www.MortensonFuneralhomes.com
A memorial fund to support art education has been set up at the school. In lieu of flowers, checks can be made out to ERS-Joani Art Fund
Elk Rapids Schools
707 East Third St.
Elk Rapids, MI 49629
Arrangements have been handled by the Central Lake Chapel of Mortensen Funeral Homes. Please sign her online guestbook www.mortensenfuneralhomes.com.