Joan Skewes-Cox Malone was born in Valparaiso, Chile on February 21, 1916 to Edith Page Smith and Vernon Skewes-Cox. Her family’s tenure in Chile extends back generations—both her mother and grandmother were born there—while her father arrived in Valparaiso from England in 1912, marrying Edith in 1915. When Joan was three, the family left Chile for the San Francisco Bay Area, where they lived south of the city in an area known as “Little Valparaiso” while their house was being built; they moved to 2020 Broadway in 1920. Spanish was Joan’s first language and she returned to Chile several times over her long life.
Joan was the oldest of four children and the only girl. Her brother Bennet was born in Valparaiso in 1918, and Robin and Martin were born in San Francisco in 1923 and 1927, respectively. In 1928, Vernon and Edith bought property in Ross, naming it “Monte Alegre” (“Happy Hill”). Before the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937, they would travel by ferry across the bay where Joan and her brothers spent idyllic summers riding their ponies over the dirt roads of Marin County. In 1947, Monte Alegre became their permanent home.
Joan attended Miss Burke’s School in San Francisco. Her parents also sent her to adult art classes at age six (she was often found eating “bonbons” and perusing art books in a sunny stairway window seat.) She went to the nearby Katherine Branson School for high school, but for college she chose to go far from home, taking the train east to Vassar, where she pursued studies in English, Philosophy and Art, graduating with a degree in Philosophy. She met her future husband, Adrian Malone, an Architecture student at Harvard, on a blind date. They were married on August 11, 1938, in San Rafael, California. They spent the first two years of marriage in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while Adrian finished his degree and where their first child, Judith, was born. Then they moved to San Francisco, where Adrian established an architectural practice. Their second child, Sara, was born in 1942, and their only son, Nicholas, in 1946. A couple of years later they moved to San Anselmo, in Marin County, to a house designed by Adrian. Their last child, Gillian, was born after the move, in 1950.
Aside from childrearing, Joan pursued her love of art, taking classes and working in her studio. She also volunteered with the San Francisco Children’s Theater, writing and directing a children’s play, “The Lollypop Shop.” She was an active member of the Jr. League of San Francisco.
In 1962, the Malones pulled up roots and moved to Big Horn, Wyoming. Having spent summer vacations for many years at the Three Rivers Ranch in Jackson Hole, settling in Wyoming felt like a homecoming. Adrian established a new practice in nearby Sheridan, and they built their second house. With only one child at home, Joan was free to devote more time to art. She also partnered with Adrian in interior design projects, and volunteered in various capacities, including doing set designs for Civic Theater productions and producing a play for the Girl’s School. One of her last civic contributions was creating a centennial image for Sheridan’s Book Review Club, founded in 1913.
When Joan and Adrian were in their seventies, they embarked on a new adventure, mortgaging their house in Big Horn in order to buy property in rural France. They bought and remodeled a house in a Provencal village, then added a guest house with a garden down the alley which they named “La Folie.” Those were some of the happiest years of Joan’s life, and they continued visiting their French home each spring and fall until they were well into their eighties.
Adrian died in 2006, and Joan was left to recreate her life as a widow. Although she missed him right to the end, she picked herself up, joined a poetry group, continued to entertain, and was engaged in life. She and Adrian had a constant stream of pets, and most recently, her Standard Poodle, Cassie and yellow tabby, Freddie, were her constant companions.
Joan was a life-long Democrat, supporting numerous non-profits including ACLU, League of Women Voters, Planned Parenthood, and a variety of environmental organizations. She loved to entertain, and was famous for hosting dinner parties and mixing up the guests to foster lively discourse. She worked “across the aisle” and had many friends and almost no enemies. She was uncannily observant of human nature and recognized the potential in young people, encouraging them to get the proper education and see the world. She was opinionated—and often right—about many subjects, and held her own in most arguments. She was very well read, both in literature and public affairs. After she died, people variously described her as: “strong”, “intelligent”, “witty”, “a pistol”, “a knuckle buster”, “straight”, “tough”, “a force”, “full of humor”, and “someone you could feel privileged to call your friend”.
Joan was preceded in death by her three brothers, her husband, and one daughter, Sara Malone Harrah, who died in 1999. She is survived by her son, Nicholas Malone (Elizabeth Devereaux), two daughters, Judith Malone Hayne (Elliot), and Gillian Malone, seven grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. A memorial will be held October 5, 2019 at 4:00 p.m. at the Equestrian Center in Big Horn. In lieu of flowers donations may be made in her name to the Powder River Basin Resource Council 934 N. Main St. Sheridan, Wy. 82801.