Julia Morgan's original drawings for our Clubhouse, Courtesy of Cal Poly Archives

A VOICE FROM THE GARDEN - Joy Hanson by Kathryn Specchierla

March 17, 2017 9:56 AM | Linda Wilson (Administrator)

“Well hello there!” These three simple words broke through the silence of my walk down Andrews Court that August morning. It was my first week of living in San Luis Obispo and I was walking my dog - hoping to find the bridge that I had remembered from childhood when playing in the creek on visits to grandparent’s home. I looked up to see a petite woman with soft dark curls and a lovely red-rose colored smile. She wore high gardening gloves and beside her was a bucket heaped with freshly pulled weeds. She was alone but stood surrounded by the blooming flowers, as if framed in a painting or the set of a stage.

We struck up a conversation, beginning with my dog (her daughter had the same breed), then on to gardening (it was her passion), and finally to the Monday Club (I shared that my Grandmother had been a member). Within minutes I felt a connection to this woman, whose inner strength I sensed immediately and whose kindness to me, a stranger just passing by, turned a lonely morning into one full of light and the possibility of future friendship. That voice from the garden belonged to Joy Hanson.

Joy was born Joy McPherrin to parents of Scottish descent in Evanston, Illinois. She was raised in a family that was both artistic and industrious. Joy attributes her love of floral arranging and gardening to her mother and grandmother who were both artistically talented and accomplished horticulturalists. Her grandfather was a well-known Chicago builder and her father, an “Ad Man” whose most famous client was Bob Hope during the height of his very popular Bob Hope Radio Show years.

Joy attended Principia college, a small Liberal Arts college in Southern Illinois where she studied Art History and was especially fond of Impressionists. While engrossed in her chosen subject during her Freshman year she learned that her father had been offered a new job. He was chosen to work as an editor in New York by none other than Mr. Hearst and was assigned to work on one of his many magazines. The family moved to the heart of the New York City where Joy made it a habit to visit often. Her trips were filled with as many visits to the theater and museums as she could fit in.

After college Joy joined the American Red Cross as a Recreation Club Staff Member. In those post War Years she was sent to the Philippines and Okinawa where she met and married an Army officer and Engineer. They began a family and Joy lived her first years as a wife and mother in Arizona and New Mexico. In 1953 her husband was transferred to Camp San Luis Obispo and the family lived for several years on the Mainini Ranch property. A wonderful coincidence for Joy occurred in 1959 when she found that Florence Mesler, her neighbor from her days at the ranch, would again be her neighbor at her second home. The stately Colonial on Mill Street, where Joy still lives today, was the perfect fit to accommodate the family that had grown to include five children. With a traditional central staircase and formal dining room, the home had enough bedrooms and bathrooms for the children and reminded Joy of homes where she’d grown up on the East Coast. Neighbors again, Florence and Joy were great friends sharing life’s ups and downs. When Joy and her first husband parted, she never considered her new life as a single mother to be challenging. Instead, she says, “I knew I just needed to concentrate on the children and raise them to be good, honest citizens”. 

Joy decided when her youngest child was four that she would go to work. Beginning as a mail clerk and working her way up to a management position, Joy supervised a team of 8 men developing training programs for Cal Trans. Over her 30-year career Joy said she loved the people she worked with because they were all “extremely devoted to their work.” If you have ever had the good fortune to work alongside Joy on a committee, you know what an asset she is to her team.

It was at a square dance where Joy met her current husband of over 40 years, Ralph Hanson. Ralph was another talented local contractor and builder and he and Joy found they shared many interests. The pair enjoyed a special love of the theatre, which lead the couple to volunteer for 20 years with the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre. A true artistic partnership, Ralph built the sets, and Joy decorated them. Joy attributes their long and happy marriage to their “mutual respect for one another”.

Over the years Joy found herself attending many Monday Club special events as a guest of her friend Florence, whose daughter Peggy Mesler happens to be a current Monday Club member. Florence worked on the Scholastic Achievement Scholarship committee, and Joy became increasingly drawn to helping in that capacity. In 1995, 3 years after Joy retired, Florence asked Joy, “Don’t you think it’s time you joined the Monday Club?” Thankfully, Joy said yes, and in her typical fashion Joy dove right in. She served as Treasurer for four years and even President in 2001. Soon after joining she served on, and then chaired, the Tri-Awards Committee, now the Fine Arts Awards. If this was not enough, Joy also answered the call to help from two other members, joining forces to get the back garden into shape. Joy’s devotion to both then Tri-Awards Scholarship Committee and her beloved Monday Club Garden ended up spanning over two decades and her efforts in both will be enjoyed by club members and the community for years to come.

Looking up at Joy at the end of our visit in the sitting room of her lovely Mill Street home, I realized that even indoors, Joy, is surrounded by objects of life and natural beauty. From the exotic orchids behind her, the floral pattern of her arm chair, and the magical collection of porcelain birds artfully displayed on the shelves beside her fireplace, one can see the room is carefully curated and filled with art and nature. It struck me in this wonderful backdrop that Joy created to raise her family and welcomes her nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren at Christmastime, that Joy has crafted and tended her life in the same way she approaches her garden or a work of floral design. From her use of both artistry and great devotion beauty and life seem to flourish around her. 

When asked about her “secret to happiness” Joy replied: “For me it is digging in the dirt, gardening, floral arranging.  Whatever you do – especially those about to retire – don’t sit on the porch and do nothing. Keep going…find something you love and do it.”


  • March 20, 2017 10:07 PM | Elise Thompson (Administrator)
    Love this article!
    Link  •  Reply
  • April 19, 2017 11:33 AM | Vicki Carroll (Administrator)
    Thank you for writing this article about the fantastic Joy Hanson, Kathryn! It is always so nice to get to know more about our members.
    Link  •  Reply
  • December 25, 2017 6:47 PM | Joyce Zorger
    What a beautiful and well-written article about our amazing Joy Hanson. What a Dinamo Joy is!!! Certainly an example of a life well-lived.
    Link  •  Reply
© The Monday Club SLO
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software