Life Story / Obituary


Joan D. Julin, 79, of Traverse City, slipped away peacefully into the white light on Sept. 9, 2014, after a long battle with ovarian cancer.

Joan was born in Detroit on Oct. 10, 1934, to Frances and Paul Bielski. She was the youngest of five children. Brothers, Walter (Lynn) Bielski, Fred (Gloria) Bielski, Paul (Delores) Bielski and sister, Cecilia Bielski, have all passed on.

She married Don Julin in 1957; he survives her. They were married for 56 years. Their 57th would have been Sept. 14, 2014.

In 1969 they moved from Detroit to the Kewadin/Elk Rapids area, eventually moving into Traverse City.

Joan was a force to be reckoned with. She could have coined the phrase, “Go big or go home.” She had multiple careers and gave her all to anything that she tackled. In the ‘70s she owned Northwest Wind Antiques, which was the perfect excuse to shop for interesting items for her store and feed her shopping addiction at the same time. Her travels around northern Michigan peaked an interest in real estate so she got her license and began a very successful career that lasted until the interest rate skyrocketed and it was time to change careers again. By the time the 1980s rolled in she had started the Beary Best Daycare out of her home and became known as Gramma Joan. Some of her “kids” still stay in touch 25 years later.

She was the founder of the Miss Grand Traverse Area Pageant. One of her proudest moments came in 1988 when one of her pageant winners, Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, went on to win the crown of Miss America.

She loved all of the performing arts, whether she was the one in the spotlight or she was in the audience. She was often seen cruising around Traverse City as “The Story Lady” in her big pink van. She dabbled as a clown and Mrs. Claus, hiring out to parties and festivals, always in some over the top costume that was sure to turn heads. She even learned ventriloquism and had not one, but six different characters.

She was one of the first volunteers when Michael Moore came to town with the idea of the Traverse City Film Festival.

She worked at TCTV2, the public access station. She produced award winning documentaries as well as public service spots. One of her favorite projects was filming the adoptable animals at the Cherryland Humane Society, helping to raise awareness and increase adoptions. She stayed on at the TC Library after TCTV2 lost its funding and eventually retired at the age of 76.