Joan Doris Johnson

October 26, 1925February 4, 2021

Joan (Gaffney) Johnson, beloved mother, grandmother, matriarch, and friend, passed away peacefully at her Spokane home on February 4, 2021.

Joan Doris Bower was born to Paul and Emily Bower in Allentown, PA, the firstborn of two children. She excelled in school, graduating with honors from Catasauqua High School in 1943. She continued her education at Pennsylvania State University, where she majored in Psychology and played the saxophone in the marching band. She was a proud member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and kept in close contact with her classmates well into her golden years.

In 1948, Joan married Richard “Dick” Gaffney in Butte, MT, where Dick was attending the Montana State School of Mines. The young Gaffney family soon settled in Spokane, WA, where Dick worked at Kaiser Aluminum. Living in Spokane and later Southern California, together Joan and Dick raised six children.

Joan was a proud, involved mother who managed to attend every game or event each child played. In California, Joan was also active as president of the Riverside Panhellenic Association and other social clubs. A gracious host, she became well-known as the best cook on the block. Each year the family returned to the Northwest to spend summers with close friends at Priest Lake, ID.

In addition to building a family, Joan built a reputable interior decorating career later in life. After moving back to Spokane in 1978, she worked at Garland Harper as a designer and eventually resumed her own business, Joan Gaffney Interiors, which she had started in her California days. Her keen eye for style and quality made her a favorite of clients throughout the Inland Northwest.

After Dick’s passing in 1994, Joan rekindled a friendship with Don Johnson, a college friend from Butte, whose wife had also recently passed away. Their friendship grew into affection, companionship, and eventually marriage in 1997. Together, they began an adventurous chapter of their lives, travelling throughout the United States and Italy while calling Long Beach, WA, home.

With Don, Joan gained another family: four loving step-children, their spouses, and two granddaughters. She worked to blend the extended Gaffney and Johnson clans, often hosting family and holiday gatherings. Joan and Don also enjoyed winters in Palm Springs with extended family visiting, including Don’s brother Keith (Carol) Johnson.

After Don’s death in 2004, Joan lived independently until moving to the Touchmark residence in 2012. There she appreciated excellent care and a sense of community, which brought her joy into her later years. She was an active group participant and committee leader, where her strong opinions paired with her welcoming, fun attitude fostered strong connections with residents and staff alike.

Joan was an avid reader and devoted Gonzaga basketball fan into her 95th year, orienting her schedule around game time. While dismayed by her isolation during the COVID pandemic, she remained hopeful and forward-looking to a time when she could hug us all again.

Throughout her life, Joan valued family ties and close relationships above all else. It is difficult to overstate how special Joan was to those who loved her. Thoughtful and sharp, she was game for anything. A wholeheartedly supportive mother and grandmother, she was the host and later guest of honor at every family event. Her family will miss the way she made time for everyone with sincere interest and enthusiastic encouragement, making each relationship feel like a uniquely cherished one. No birthday went uncelebrated, no accomplishment unnoticed. Her extended family remains united in celebrating her life and legacy.

Joan was preceded in death by her two husbands Richard Gaffney and Don Johnson, as well as two sons Donald (Carol) and David Gaffney. She is survived by her brother Glen; her Gaffney children: Diane, Daniel (Jill), Deborah (Richard), and Dean (Dotty); and her Johnson children: Alice Collingwood, Paul (Patty), Trish (Carl), and Howard (Nancy). Joan adored and was adored by her 10 grandchildren and will be remembered as the great “GiGi” to her seven great-grandchildren.

In the end, it was her body but never mind nor spirit that decided it was time to go home. Our guest of honor is onward to her next dinner party no doubt. Joan’s family will hold a celebration of life when it is safe to gather and make a “big do” in her honor.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Joan Doris Johnson

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