Shirley Joan Teats | 1924 - 2012 | Obituary

Shirley Joan Teats
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Shirley Joan Teats

Born: August 05, 1924
Died: June 01, 2012

Joan grew up in Baker City, in eastern Oregon, and started playing golf at the age of 12. Her mother Peg was a school teacher, and her father Walt was a pharmacist. She had one sister named Patty. She graduated in 1946 from Whitman College with a major in music and started her first job teaching music in a public school in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The following year she was promoted to supervisor of music in the Lewiston, Idaho school district.

In 1947, she married Dick Curtiss, a student from Whitman who also majored in music. They spent many hours after work, playing golf at the Lewiston Country Club. Bill Welch, was a former USGA National Amateur Public Links Champion 1941, and professional at Lewiston. With Dick’s encouragement Joan’s game improved to a handicap of 4. She won the Lewiston Women’s Championship and later on, the Idaho State Women’s Championship in 1949.
Joan and Dick moved to Pomeroy, WA., where Dick had his first job teaching music. While living in Pomeroy, their first daughter, Chris, was born in 1950. Then in 1952, they welcomed their second daughter, Kathy. A third daughter, Patty, arrived on the scene in 1959 after the family moved to Tacoma.
In Tacoma, Joan taught music in the classroom at the Bethel school district and then moved into a new field - television music. Produced by the Clover Park school district, channel 56 closed circuit TV where she worked for seven years. It was during this time Joan lost her husband following open-heart surgery. As a widow, Joan was invited to join Fircrest GC and play golf again. In 1967, Joan met Merrill Teats, a 7 handicapper where else but at the golf course. They were married in June of 1967 and played golf for many years. Since retiring from teaching, Joan found she missed being around young people, It was then that Joan became chairman of the Junior Golf program at Fircrest.
Now a blended family had grown to include her three daughters and two step-children, Mac and Marsha. Those still in the home, enjoyed playing junior golf at Fircrest with many other young people. Patty became a serious competitor on the high school “boys” golf team, with Jim Sulenes coaching and encouraging her. Patty was the Runner-Up at the PNGA Junior Girls Championship in 1976, and awarded a golf scholarship at University of New Mexico where she played collegiate golf for four years. In 1979, thirty years after Joan won her state championship, Patty was Runner-Up at the PNGA Women's Championship, and won the Washington State Women’s Amateur Title, but was too old for WJGA!
Joan started the Washington Junior Golf Association (WJGA) in 1977, with the support of Merrill and their family. In 1977, with the inception of WJGA well under way, the Teats residence became the home to the first WJGA office. Two bedrooms and the recreation room were filled with supplies and people devoting many hours to WJGA. Later, daughter Chris would join the WJGA staff and become an integral part of the WJGA team developing the publicity, fundraising, and computer aspects of junior golf administration.
In addition to founding one of the nation’s most notable junior golf associations (WJGA), Joan also founded the Girls Junior Americas Cup (GJAC) Team Matches in 1978. GJAC is a team competition which brings together the top four girls from each state and country, who exemplify outstanding skill, along with true sportsmanship, courtesy and strength of character. Joan also started the North Pacific Junior Ladies Team Matches (NPJL) in 1987, a friendly rivalry, casual fun event for girls in the North Pacific Rim area, which has now evolved into Canada vs US team matches. All three tournaments have “stood the test of time” and are going strong today as a result of her dedication to kids and golf. Joan was truly a pioneer, and visionary woman who was way ahead of her time.
Joan also became a director in the PNGA, and a member of the USGA Junior Girls Committee. In 1995, she was honored as an inductee into the Pacific Northwest Hall of Fame for distinguished achievement in amateur golf competition and outstanding contributions in amateur golf in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, the distinguished Isaac B Granger award was given to Joan by the USGA for more than 25 years of dedicated service as a volunteer and she was inducted into the Fircrest Golf Club Hall of Fame, and the Tacoma Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
In the mid 1990’s, Joan began to face some health issues, which she handled in typical Joan stoic fashion . . . “adjust and move on”. The family became more involved in watching over her care during this time, with Chris most involved in the early stages. In 2002, the family moved her to an assisted living facility in Spirit Lake, Idaho near Kathy and her husband Steven English. Kathy, and her husband hosted all the family gathering’s at their home, which we refer to as the “healing place”, for the last 10 years of Joan’s life. According to Kathy, "it was my honor and gift to be able to care for Mom in her last 10 years. We spent three days a week together while she gave me golf lessons, sat by the fire pit at our home and watched the fur family play...some of her most favored things. Family gatherings were frequent and loving. Mom's dedication to her family, and visa versa, was lasting and strong. Our last days watching over her transition and comfort, profound."
Joan’s family, especially her children meant the most to her. Her daughter Chris is continuing the work that Joan started as the Director of Operations with WJGA, Kathy has been an educational consultant most of her life, and recently became the Director of Education at the new Möbius Science Center opening in Spokane this Fall, Mac is gainfully employed in the Tri-Cities “by and paying taxes to” the Fed’s, and Patty operates two businesses in the Palm Springs area, Golf Rehab and Eldercaring, which were both inspired by Joan.
Joan is survived by her grandchildren; Sean Neery, Joel Teats, Leah Teats, Beverly Brunswick and Kevin Sleep.
From 1936 to the present, golf, kids, and of course family, have been a integral part of her life and a big influence on her decision making through the years. As one sports writer put it at the 1979 WJGA State Championship, "Golf is in the blood of this family".

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