Joanna Miller
Joanna Miller

Obituary of Joanna Louise Paulsen Miller

Joanna Louise Paulsen Miller passed peacefully in her home on Wednesday, August 9, 2023, at the age of 74. She was surrounded in love by her adoring husband, JD Miller, and a parade of family and friends during her final days. 


Born at the Leavenworth hospital on December 12, 1948, to Bernadette and Hubert Paulsen, Joanna was the youngest of five siblings. They lived in Peshastin until 1950, when Hubert took a job with the Howe Sound Mining company and relocated the family to Holden. Joanna’s parents ran the general store and she went to the Holden school from age five until nine. When the mine closed in 1957, the family moved one final time to Cashmere, where they purchased a home on Tigner Road for $6,500 cash. A few houses down the street, Joanna met Barbara MacKenzie and the two became lifelong best friends. Joanna graduated from Cashmere High School in 1966, and then attended Wenatchee Valley College. Throughout the years, Joanna embraced a love of music and singing. She played the piano and was an active choir member in the Cashmere Baptist Church, where her mother also sang. It was also through Bernadette that Joanna found a passion for cooking and baking, which followed her throughout her life. 


In 1970, Joanna married Patrick Agnew and they moved from Cashmere to Olympia. She got a job at Providence St. Peter Hospital in the administration office and became a member of the Olympia First Baptist Church, where she was also a welcomed member of the choir, often performing solos. Eventually the two would go into business for themselves, enjoying much success and also a fair share of personal hardships, until Patrick’s death in 1992.


On March 28, 1993, Joanna married the love of her life, JD Miller, in a spontaneous ceremony in Lake Tahoe. The bride and groom wore matching Hawaiian shirts and their wedding album was a beaming photo on a ceramic coffee mug. Joanna and JD had many happy years together, where they embarked on endless adventures and hobbies, including tandem bike riding, road trips, bread and pizza baking, butterfly and bird watching. Around 2010, they attended their first House Concert in California and became intrigued with the idea of hosting concerts themselves to support local musicians. They soon became known for their “Music Up Close” event, where they would host concerts in their living room and serve homemade pizza fresh from their brick oven. Guests and neighbors would crowd the kitchen for incredible food, followed by great live music. It was often standing-room-only, and all proceeds always went 100% to the bands. Their hospitality extended from the audience to the musicians themselves, who would often stay in the guestroom to save costs. Joanna would serve delicious meals and make them so comfortable they didn’t want to leave for the next gig. 

It was their shared joy in music and adventure that bonded JD and Joanna, and she credited him for getting her out of her shell and restarting her life. With JD by her side, Joanna felt brave and was able to experience things she would never have imagined doing, like flying to El Salvador to chase after butterflies, or biking through Utah’s Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the Moab desert.


Joanna was a gifted painter who found great joy in her art studio. She painted everything from whimsical fish on bicycles to dancing ballerinas, often giving her works as cherished gifts. Her Christmas cards were legendary and she would send JD to Olympia Printing to print copies to send to family and friends. But it was the inspiration she drew from nature (birds, flowers and trees) to which Joanna devoted much of her talent. Peonies and sunflowers were favorites. Joanna was also a gifted storyteller and wrote many short stories about her childhood. Another story featured carousel horses and she illustrated the characters with elaborately detailed paintings. Joanna will live on through her artwork, and her annual Christmas cards will be dearly missed. 


Joanna is survived by husband, JD Miller; sister, Reyma Weaver; brother, Jerrold Paulsen; and many nieces, nephews; great-nieces and nephews; and great-great-nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents; and brothers, Jackie Paulsen and Dennis Paulsen. 


A memorial will be held to celebrate this remarkable woman’s life on August 17, 2023, 11:00 a.m. at the Olympia First Baptist Church, 904 Washington Street SE, Olympia, WA 98501.


In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation in Joanna Miller’s name to the Olympia First Baptist Church or another personal cause close to your heart. 


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