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  • Commemorating the Life of Joan Margaret (Kathan) Zerzan

    by Representative Greg Walden

    Posted on 2013-03-13

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    WALDEN of oregon in the house of representatives Wednesday, March 13, 2013 Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to mark the passing of a great Oregonian whose contribution to my State and our nation bears recognition.

    Joan Margaret (Kathan) Zerzan was born in Grants Pass, Oregon on June 26, 1927. A child of the Great Depression, she grew up in a house up Evans Creek Road in Rogue River, Oregon that was for a good part of her youth not wired with electricity. And yet, as she was fond of saying, if her family was poor she didn't know it at the time.

    A descendent of pioneers and frontiersmen, throughout her life Joan Zerzan demonstrated the indomitable spirit of her forebears. During World War II she served as a civilian spotter of air traffic while working on her sister's ranch. A musical prodigy, she attended Willamette University at the age of 17 on musical scholarship, having been born with the unique ability to play almost any instrument seemingly just by looking at it.

    It was while at Willamette that Joan met the great love of her life and husband of 60 years, Charles Zerzan. Almost exactly 5 years ago I memorialized Charles Zerzan's life on this floor, and recounted his many accomplishments. There is no question that these would not have been possible without his beloved wife Joan.

    In Joan Zerzan's life she served in many roles--patron of the arts, poll worker on election day, volunteer at school and church. Yet for all her many endeavors, there was no field in which she excelled so much as in being a mother. Joan Zerzan gave birth to 12 children, 8 sons and 4 daughters, and provided each one with the love and succor that only a mother can provide. As the Psalmist wrote, so Joan Zerzan truly believed, ``Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.'' In not only raising fine children, but in teaching them her core values of faith and hard work, she richly contributed to the ongoing success of our nation in the irreplaceable way upon which all of civilization ultimately rests. She provided an example of the matchless power of these two values throughout her life through her words and her actions--beliefs she instilled not only in her own children but in her 32 grandchildren and 12 great- grandchildren.

    Though we mourn the loss of Joan Zerzan, we also celebrate the life of a woman whose contributions to this country leave an enduring legacy and inspiration to others. Joan Zerzan believed nothing was impossible and taught her children and grandchildren that, when faced with uncertainty or given a choice between hope and despair, the only reasonable choice was hope. As recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, ``Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.'' The woman who built her own life on solid ground, who grew up in a humble dwelling in southern Oregon, now retires to the mansion that has been promised her. On this solemn but ultimately joyful occasion I know this whole body will join with me in giving thanks for the life of Joan Zerzan.


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