Floral 07

Joan (McRae) Biersch

December 21, 1933 ~ November 8, 2023 (age 89) 89 Years Old

Joan Biersch Obituary

Joan Biersch (née Joan McRae) passed away peacefully in her home with her children at her side.  She leaves behind a large family who adored her and so many beloved lifelong friends from Stockton and Berkeley and Chico and Arcadia and Sonoma because Joan made lifelong friends everywhere she went. She had a deep and abiding faith in God that sustained throughout her entire life. She was an effervescent soul. A true extrovert. A person who radiated love and joy. 
In the weeks since her passing, the family has collected stories from those whose lives Joan impacted, as a 5th grade school teacher where she taught American History – her favorite,  as a church volunteer where she cultivated a love of gardening with others, as a therapist where she offered young families an understanding of the importance of Attunement and Mindful parenting and later, similarly in Mindfulness groups she lead for adults, as a godmother and adoptive mother to the children of cherished friends made through the years. Joan was to this vast array of friends, family, clients, gym mates, in-laws and colleagues a presence that allowed the light within each of them to shine. 
Joan was born on December 21st, 1933 in Phoenix, Arizona, though she thought of herself as a California girl through and through. Her father Alexander James McRae had been working for Texaco at the time, but he and her mother, Mildred Deane Haskins McRae finally moved the family to Burlingame when she was four. She would stay in California for the rest of her life – a point of pride. Joan and her beloved younger sister Nancy lived in many towns throughout the state during their childhood – grade school in Fresno, Long Beach in junior high – before the family settled in Stockton.
Joan fell in love with the valley life of that era. They lived near the levee where she and her sister, Nancy, loved riding horses together. Joan loved dinners at home where the family talked politics and business. She graduated from Castilleja High and went on to UC Berkeley. At Cal, Joan joined the Pi Beta Phi sorority, the first in a long line of Pi Phis in her family. She majored in International Relations and created after school programs for the resident children of the Bay View Villa Housing project, including tap dancing lessons which she, herself, taught - Joan always loved to dance. When recalling that time with her daughter, Joan spoke of great fun, lifelong friends, and her desire to go out and make a difference in the world. And then – her own world shifted. 

The summer of 1952, Joan and her family vacationed on Oahu, Hawaii. It was there, through mutual friends, that she met Richard “Dick” Biersch. Dick was six years older. He was working on the island, living with three friends, and surfing when he could. Joan was enamored by the tall, quiet, handsome older man, but assumed that her attraction was one sided until, one day on the beach, she waltzed up to the group of friends to ask: “Who’s going to teach me to surf?” Her heart just about stopped when Dickie Biersch stood up. “Dickie Biersch wanted to teach me to surf!” (Those who met Joan can likely still hear the exuberant inflection in her voice as she recounted this). In 1954, Joan and Dick married at the chapel at UOP, with the reception at her family’s home, complete with tiki lights and leis. The couple first moved to San Francisco, where Dick worked for Hamm’s Brewery Co. and Joan transferred to San Francisco State to finish her degree. 
Joan gave birth to Lisa in 1956 and to Dean just 17 months later in 1957. They waited seven more years to complete their family. Heidi was born in 1964. Joan described motherhood as her greatest joy. The family then lived in Chico. Three generations of Joan’s family lived near their home across from Bidwell Park One-Mile. Their life in Chico was full: church on Sundays at St. David’s, outdoor adventures at Mt Lassen and Almanor Lake, hosting and attending parties, including the infamous Orange Party, and a whole new set of lifelong friends cultivated by Joan and Dick – friends who have become like family to their children.
In 1968, Joan and Dick left that vibrant support network and moved to Southern California, where Dick went to LA Art Center School of Design, and Joan became a teacher. Joan remembers fondly how much there was to explore with the children in their early years in Southern California: from the beaches of San Clemente to the Science & Industry Museum, the Rose Bowl, Mt Wilson Observatory and the concert halls. The Episcopal Church in Arcadia and later Church of Our Savior in San Gabriel is where Joan’s deep faith was nurtured and practiced – and, of course, a whole slew of lifelong friends were made.  
When her children left home, Joan reinvented herself. She went back to school, earned two  Master's Degrees, and opened her own private practice as a MFT. Joan loved her profession as a therapist. She said it never felt like work. She was honored to study with her mentor, Dr. Dan Siegel, Director of the Mindsight Institute at UCLA. This is where Joan’s passion for Mindfulness originated. In 2014, Joan and Dick moved to Sonoma when they felt it was time to be closer to their three children. In Sonoma, she was so very grateful to find such a supportive community at Trinity Episcopal Church and the community at large. 

Joan loved so much in her life – dancing, the view of the San Gabriel mountains, chatting, exercising, friends, gardening, flower arranging, grandkids, great grandkids, adventures, parties – but her greatest love was her three kids. She called them “caring, loving, thoughtful, giving, cheerful – our greatest treasures alongside our fabulous friendships, travels, gatherings, fun, joy, filled with luck, we were.” Once again, those who knew Joan might hear those words in her specific buoyant tone. Because she truly did feel that way. She loved everything and everyone with every part of her soul. She felt joy intentionally and with unfiltered abandon. As her daughter said, she was the thread that bound so many together. And that thread was so strong, so vibrant, so Joan, that it lives on without her.

Joan is survived by her children Lisa Biersch Cole, Dean Biersch and Heidi Biersch, son-in-law Bill Cole, daughter-in-law Kim Biersch, grandchildren Heidi Cole McAdams and husband Michael, Troy Cole, Drew Cole and wife Molly, Rebecca Regoli, Elizabeth Biersch, Isabel Regoli Hellmers and husband Christian, Benjamin Regoli, Jenna Biersch, and Will Biersch, great-grandchildren Owen William and Juniper Joan McAdams, and Grayson Bailey, beloved God children and adopted children, Sara, David, Tina, SherBear, Bobby and Michael and countless others. She was preceded in death by her husband, Richard Allen Biersch (d. June 4 2022)  her sister Nancy McRae (d. May 20, 2022) and many lifelong friends whom she loved with her whole heart.

A funeral will be held on Saturday January 6 2024 at 11:00 am  at Trinity Episcopal Church in Sonoma, CA with a reception following at the church, hosted by HopMonk Tavern. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Church of Our Savior Transitional Housing – Attention Bill Doulas. 525 W. Roses Rd. San Gabriel, CA 91775 and Trinity Episcopal Church, 275 East Spain Street Sonoma Ca 95476.









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Funeral Service
January 6, 2024

11:00 AM
Trinity Episcopal Church (Sonoma, CA)


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