On Friday, physical education and women’s sports lost a huge champion—in every sense of the word—in the passing of my aunt, Joan Van Blom. Joan’s life and career illustrate why it’s wise to invest in women’s sports; she took full advantage of the opportunities available to her under Title IX, blazing a path through doors that weren’t previously open to women in rowing, including the Olympics. As a teacher, coach, athlete, and PE curriculum coordinator, she inspired at least two generations of athletes (and others!) of all genders.
We all thought Joan would live forever, but she spent the past two years living with glioblastoma multiforme—and did so, at least as far as I saw, with verve and elegance. She kept rowing for as long as she could–and, being Joan, continued to take home the gold.
Despite all of her accomplishments and my great admiration for her, I’ll miss her laughter the most. Any dinner with Joan and her sisters, however informal, was always a party.
Jean Strauss has been crafting a documentary about Joan. Here’s a taste:
And here’s Joan’s own perspective:
“In Memory of Joan Lind Van Blom” by US Rowing— including an especially thoughtful tribute by the women’s double at the World Championships on the day of Joan’s death
From the Cal State Long Beach student rowing team: “Remembering Joan Lind Van Blom”
And, from the front page of the daily Long Beach paper, “Long Beach’s Joan Van Blom, rowing legend, dies of brain cancer at 62”