Obituaries » Joanne Gay Kiemele

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Joanne Gay Kiemele

November 10, 1939 - January 5, 2022

Joanne Kiemele was called to her heavenly home on January 5, 2022.  True to her character, she maintained a gracious and positive attitude even in her final days, giving evidence of her love for others and faith in God.


Joanne was born on November 10, 1939 to Vernon and Margaret Heckman.  She was the oldest of six children and spent many hours loving and caring for her five younger siblings.  After graduating from Johnson High School in 1956, she attended Macalester College for two years and then toured with God’s Volunteers for a year before transferring to Bethel College and graduating with a degree in Christian Education.  While attending college, she worked in a hospital as a nurse’s aid.  In 1957, she met LeRoy Kiemele at a College Youth Winter Retreat.  It didn’t take long for LeRoy to know she was the one. They courted for four years and married on June 23rd, 1961.


Joanne faithfully supported LeRoy in his pastoral duties for decades, starting when he was in seminary, continuing during his church pastorates for 10 years, and then for 24 years as an Army Chaplain’s wife.  She gracefully held the role of military wife and expertly managed many moves, both statewide and abroad.  She played piano and organ at all of the churches that they pastored or attended, and often led women’s Bible studies.


During their years of ministry, Joanne was also a teacher.  She taught in both rural and city schools, and spent many years teaching piano lessons.  When their youngest was in high school, Joanne decided to pursue graduate school.  She earned her Master’s Degree in Education at New Mexico State University in 1995 and taught 3rd grade for a year at White Sands Missile Range before moving back to Washington with LeRoy for retirement.


Joanne loved being outside and walked daily.  She often memorized scripture as she walked along the Chambers Bay Golf Course, minutes from their home.  Camping trips and family vacations were also a highlight for her.  Annual trips to the Midwest to visit extended family members were treasured memories.


Joanne exuded hospitality.  She and LeRoy would often be found hosting soldiers or new local families for Sunday dinner or holidays.  Joanne’s home and heart was open to all.  She loved to pray with and encourage people.  She sent hundreds of cards to family members and friends each year, sharing her love and thoughtfulness with them.


Joanne and LeRoy recently celebrated 60 years of marriage.  This great love, and the love for their children and grandchildren, is Joanne’s greatest legacy.


In October of 2019, Joanne was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and immediately launched into aggressive treatment, including radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy.  While these therapies effectively treated the cancer, the cumulative effect of the treatment, combined with the presence of other age-related physical ailments, eventually overwhelmed her physical body.


To cherish her memory, Joanne leaves behind her loving husband LeRoy, their children Laurie (Jim) McFadden, Kevin Kiemele, Shelley (Todd) Koeppen, Karyn (Garrett) Gunderson; and grandchildren Sarah, Kaleigh, Jaclyn, Madelaine, Josiah, Naomi, and Olivia.  She also leaves behind siblings Jenean (Brad) Erickson, Jerrel (Diane) Heckman, Joel (Sue) Heckman, and Jim (Darlene) Heckman, as well as an aunt, cousins, nieces, and nephews.  She was preceded in death by her parents, Vernon and Margaret Heckman, and her sister and brother-in-law, Judy and Larry Friesen.  We rejoice in the heavenly reunion they must be having!


A memorial service for Joanne will be held on Saturday, January 15th at 11:00am.  The service will be held at Olympic View Baptist Church, 4707 Elwood Drive West, University Place, WA 98466.  It will also be livestreamed and can be viewed by going to the church website at and clicking on the livestreams tab.

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