Joan O’Keefe

Joan O’Keefe who lived in Atascadero for 30 years passed away on March 19, 2018, in Visalia while staying with her daughter.
Joan (Hamann) was the oldest of 10 children. She was born in 1937 in North Dakota.
Joan received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Dakota. While she was married to her first husband, Martin Hagopian, she began her career as a social worker in Colorado and then with Kern County. While in Bakersfield, she earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology. In 1987, she married Tim O’Keefe and settled in Atascadero. Joan took on the job of restoring and enhancing the native plants on their property on Old Morro Road, doing much of the heavy work herself. She took great pride in giving tours of her yard to visitors. She was also an expert in native plant and wildflower identification.
Joan was active in the Atascadero Native Tree Association (ANTA) for many years. She described herself as a “tree hugger.” Cory Meyer, a retired Atascadero Public Works employee in charge of urban forestry, worked on many projects with her. He said, “She was instrumental in getting the Native Tree Inventory completed for the City, getting our ANTA website designed and implemented and getting hundreds of native trees and shrubs planted in our community along with much more.” During that time, she served as president of the group. In her honor, ANTA has installed a bench and a plaque at Stadium Park.
Joan was active in local politics and served on the Atascadero Planning Commission from 2003 to 2008. She was chairperson in 2007. She was also active with the Atascadero and County Democratic Clubs, serving in various leadership roles. She loved to hike in the hills around Atascadero and she loved her pets.
Joan has eight surviving siblings: two sisters in California, three brothers in Colorado, a sister in Minnesota and a brother in North Dakota. One sister preceded her in death. She is survived by her daughter, Laurie Dresser of Visalia, her son, Pete Hagopian of Bakersfield, and her grandson, Marty Downs, Laurie’s son. Joan’s husband, Tim O’Keefe, preceded her in death in 2014.
A celebration of life will be held for immediate family at a later date. Donations may be made to one of the organizations in which Joan was active or Sojourn Hospice and Palliative Care of Fresno.

In memoriam, Joan O’Keefe (1937-2018)
On March 19, 2018, the Atascadero community lost a wonderful and spirited advocate.
Joan O’Keefe passed away in Visalia. She had been staying with her daughter, after experiencing a couple of years of deteriorating health.
I had the fortune of meeting Joan in 2006 when I had run for the City Council. Joan was also the chairperson of the planning commission in the year I served as Mayor.
Joan was a passionate advocate for maintaining Atascadero’s natural beauty and she had also served as a board member for the Atascadero Land Preservation Society which incorporated in 1991. She had served on the committee supporting the care and preservation of Atascadero’s native trees and she had served on the planning commission since 2003. Joan was also a great advocate for the improvement and relocation of our city library.
Upon meeting her, I quickly learned that Joan had tremendous institutional knowledge concerning city government and function. Although we didn’t always agree on some issues, I found her advice extremely valuable in helping to educate me concerning planning and development matters.
Joan had great integrity and little patience with certain governmental behaviors that detracted from our city’s welfare. She was spirited in advocation of ethical behavior in government and safeguarding the public’s tax dollars. She was a true steward of public trust.
Without exception, Joan O’Keefe was one of most down to earth and principled public officials I have ever known, and it was my honor to have benefited from her friendship and counsel.
Mike Brennler


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