Lasting Memories

Joan Wrenn
Dec. 5, 1942-Aug. 17, 2023
Palo Alto, California

Joan Wrenn, 80, a long time Palo Alto resident, passed away on August 17, 2023. The youngest of four children, she grew up in Lorain, Ohio, before graduating from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. in 1965. After a year spent working for the National Institutes of Health, Joan headed west to graduate school at Stanford.

While at Stanford, Joan met fellow grad student Jim Wrenn and the two were married in 1968. After earning her Ph.D. in developmental biology she stayed at Stanford and worked as a researcher. Eventually transitioning away from biology, Joan turned her passion for education into a second career by working in the guidance department at Palo Alto High School and helping hundreds of students take the next step in their educational journey.

A renaissance woman with a myriad of interests, Joan was an avid collector of botanical prints and salt cellars and she and Jim published several articles on the subjects. Marine biology was a lifelong love as well and the Monterey Bay Aquarium was her home away from home. Joan was also an avid traveler and her passport was nearly filled with trips all over the world including an Olympic Games and Antarctica. She even spent her 80th birthday hiking the Swiss Alps.

Joan is survived by her children, Gregg, Becky and Colleen, her son-in-law Jason Sampson and her granddaughters Helena Joan and Mallory Wrenn.

From Judy Smith
Aug. 27, 2023

We met Joan and Jim Wrenn in the mid 1970s when our children entered kindergarten at Walter Hays Elementary School in Palo Alto, CA. Our common interests included the Monterey Bay Area Aquarium, where we ran into each other on opening day there. They visited us after we moved to the DC area and toured the Smithsonian’s fish collection. Wonderful memories of a good friend, fellow scientist and Palo Alto member of our community. I shall always remember her.

From Lisa Fleury
Aug. 25, 2023

Auntie Joanie Cha Cha Cha! - As children we would chant this while pinching each others' cheeks. Very fond memories...

From Shannon Griscom
Aug. 24, 2023

I have known Joan for many years since our oldest children made their first communions at St. Ann's. I am saddened by her death and I send love and comfort at this time to her family. She was a lovely woman. I cannot attend the memorial mass, but I will make a contribution in her name to the Aquarium.