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Joan Bingham

Published: Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 5:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 5:15 p.m.

For 11 of the last 12 months of her life, Joan Bingham lived and worked in some of Washington's toughest neighborhoods delivering lessons in life skills as part of a Mormon mission.

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Joan Bingham

She and her husband of 56 years, Perry Bingham, only returned home to Santa Rosa in April so she could battle lymphoma.

Bingham died May 16 at her home in Rincon Valley after a long life of service inspired by her faith and a belief that it was the right thing to do. She was 78.

“I always heard that it's our responsiblity to make things around us better, whether it's in our personal lives or business or the community,” said her son Christopher Bingham of Santa Rosa.

“She always believed in our being personally very engaged in making things better,” he said.

Bingham was born Joan Wardel on Nov. 17, 1934 in South Falls, Idaho. A dancer and acrobat from an early age, she attended Utah State University, where she also was the drum majorette who headed the university football team's entrance to the gridiron on game days. And it was in that role that she met her future husband.

“My dad was a football player and he always tried to line up near the front of line when the cheerleaders and drum majors led them on to the field,” said Chris Bingham.

The couple married in 1956, the year Joan Bingham graduated with a bachelor's degree in business. She taught for six years in elementary, middle and high schools.

Dancing remained a part of her life for many years. After moving to Santa Rosa in 1964, she took on the role as choreographer for the Junior Miss pageant competition.

The couple first moved to Bennett Valley and Santa Rosa instilled itself in the their hearts from the start.

“Santa Rosa was still a young community then and they were able to develop some very deep connections with people who are still their best friends today,” Chris Bingham said.

“No matter where in the world she's gone,” he said, “she always comes back and say, 'Santa Rosa is the most beautiful place in the world and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.'”

Bingham took on responsibilities to help shape the community she loved, working with the County Citizen's Advisory Committee on a 20-Year-Plan, the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Santa Rosa.

She also advocated locally, statewide and nationally on health issues including dental care and seatbelt laws through her participation with the Auxiliary to the American Dental Association. She served as national president of that organization in 1987.

Her survivors also include her husband, a past president of the Santa Rosa LDS stake; her son Scott Bingham of Spanish Fork, Utah; and her daughters Lisa Hunsaker or Idaho Falls, Idaho, Lynda Sue Christiansen of Sebastopol, Leigh-Ann Miller of Franklin, Tenn., and Joelle Sanchez of Visalia.

Services are set for 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Rincon Valley LDS Chapel, 5301 Badger Road, Santa Rosa, preceded by a viewing beginning at 9:30 a.m.

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