Joan S. Borst

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Joan Sitterly Borst was born on September 11, 1943 in Auburn, New York to Raymond and Angeline (“Anne”) Kent Borst. Her father was a self-taught scholar of Henry David Thoreau, and her mother was an artist who died when Joan was 34. Joan had one sibling, an older sister Cynthia, and together they were raised in an 1800’s era brick farmhouse on 160 acres. The family grew wheat, tended chickens, and had a large vegetable garden.Joan attended Colby Jr. College in New London, New Hampshire, graduating in 1963. She finished her last two years at the University of Wyoming, earning a B.A. in American Studies in 1965.College was not Joan’s first time in Wyoming, however. At five, she drove out with her parents to pick up Cynthia from a visit with their Aunt Ruth Kent—who had moved to Wyoming from New York in the late 1920’s as a school teacher. The sisters would spend a month each summer in Sheridan and the nearby Bighorn Mountains, where Ruth Kent and her life-long partner Ruth Aldridge had built a cabin. During her time at Colby College, Joan was briefly engaged to a local rancher’s son.After graduating from UW, Joan returned to the east and enrolled in a summer program at Dartmouth that set her up for her first real job: a senior caseworker for the New York City Department of Welfare.In 1975 she began working part-time for Mid-Coast Family Planning, a non-profit clinic in Belfast, Maine, where she remained until 1994. She built her own house in nearby Lincolnville, grew beautiful gardens, was briefly married, and forged many of her closest friendships. All the while she was developing her skill in photography, a childhood interest she had inherited from her father.Joan never let work get in the way of living her life. She loved to travel, and always managed to return to Wyoming to visit “the Ruths” throughout their lives; she and her cousin Janice helped manage their affairs as they grew older. In 1995 Joan moved permanently to Wyoming. She landed a position at Sheridan College in Video Conferencing, beaming in classes from UW. As a lifelong learner, this was a perfect job for Joan, and she used the opportunity to enroll in classes ranging from the Humanities to Horticulture.Joan was a political activist her entire life. She marched on Washington for the Equal Rights Amendment; she stood up for civil rights, gay pride and social justice issues. She was a founding member of Sheridan Peacemakers and in 2003 helped organize a well-attended march in downtown Sheridan to protest the imminent invasion of Iraq. She was instrumental in starting the weekly vigil at Grinnell and Main, and later bringing the “Occupy” movement to Sheridan—which together made for considerable controversy at times. Joan was also editor of the on-line Peacemakers newsletter, which evolved into a clearing house for alternative media—her way of challenging the status quo.On September 13th, Joan attended her last vigil, holding a sign showing her solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux. Thanks to Joan’s efforts in establishing and maintaining open dialogue, “the corner of Grinnell and Main” has become institutionalized into a little United Nations-style safe zone for free expression.Joan was a loyal Democrat who volunteered her time and talents to the Democratic party. She was very excited about electing our first African-American president, and when Obama came to the Crow Reservation she rounded up friends to go witness the event. She played a large part in drafting Sheridan County’s Democratic platforms, and was a precinct committee woman. She was an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter.Not all of Joan’s pursuits were of a political nature. Like her father, she was a researcher, her life a series of “anthropological experiences.” She had wildly ranging curiosities: gardening and native plants, meteorological events, fire in all its forms, clouds and seasonal skies, thunder and lightning, storm tracking and tornados. She could regularly be found up at the Visitors Center when a storm was passing through. She recorded the weather every day.Joan loved cows and had a particular weakness for baby calves frolicking in the green grass of spring. While at Colby College she wrote a term paper entitled “There is Virtue in a Cow.”In 1996, Joan and her friend Gillian took over the café at the Sheridan Livestock Auction. Joan was in charge of making pies and working the counter—which she did by not only serving up the food, but discussing such issues as corporate control of the livestock industry with the customers.Photography was how Joan documented her life and wanderings, the changing times, and her environs. She took literally thousands of photographs in her life, often making them into Christmas cards or birthday greetings for her friends. As a local history buff, she also spent many hours—especially in the last two years of her life—scanning and uploading the photographs of her Aunt Ruth Kent to the “Memories of Sheridan” Facebook page, where she stimulated endless curiosity and discourse among people of the community. She will be greatly missed by all her friends, including many who never met her.Joan is survived by her sister Cynthia and brother-in-law Richard Sherwood of Rochester, N.Y., four nieces, Anne (Tom) of Redondo Beach, CA, Elaine (Michael) of Rochester, Liza (Robert) of Pittsford, N.Y., and Jennifer of San Diego, CA; one nephew, Jonathan (Diana) of Rochester, five great nieces, Blythe, Belle and Vivi of Rochester, and Grace and Emma of Pittsford, N.Y. and one great nephew, Max of Pittsford. Joan is also survived by her cousins Douglas Kent of Bedford-Armonk, NY, Janice (Kent) Culver of Longmont, CO, Frank and Christine Vibrans of Longmont, CO, and Tim Levens, of Longmont, CO.Joan will be remembered and honored at a Celebration of her Life on Friday, October 28th at 3:00 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1950 East Brundage Lane, with a potluck supper to follow.In lieu of flowers, people are encouraged to make donations in her name to the following: American Civil Liberties Union; Powder River Basin Resource Council; Sheridan County Democrats; Sheridan County Museum; Wyoming Wilderness Association.

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