Philanthropist, grandmother, tireless volunteer, mother to many
Joan Renken, a beloved wife, mother, and grandmother who was known as a generous charity patron, died unexpectedly on Saturday, June 30. She was 81.
Ms. Renken was blessed with nearly 54 years of marriage to Keith Renken, former managing partner for Deloitte and Touche’s southwest region.
She was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on November 7, 1936 and raised in southern California. She was a free-spirited child who loved laughing, dancing, and spontaneous adventure, her family shared.
Many beyond her own family saw Ms. Renken as a mother. As a child, she gathered and nurtured baby chicks and stray kittens.
When raising her children, she welcomed their friends into her heart and home; and after they were grown, she became a proud grandma and opened her heart to nurture foster children at Hillsides by cooking weekly dinners for girls at a satellite home and cuddling and feeding babies, her family related.
The children she sponsored through Friends of Foster Children called her “a godsend.” She shared encouragement and advice and sent them school supplies, birthday gifts, and college care packages to support their transition into adulthood and getting their first apartment.
“A half dozen of those kids are now in their 30s and 40s, and she still keeps track of them,” said her husband.
Over the years, Ms. Renken gave Christmas gifts to fulfill children’s’ wish lists as part of the Sugar Plum project. She partnered with her husband to become an award-winning charitable team, donating to Methodist Hospital, the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic, Children’s Bureau of Los Angeles and California Science Center, among others. Together they established the Renken Family Scholarship for students at the USC Leonard School of Gerontology and USC School of Accounting and have supported artists through the Autry Museum and the California Art Club.
“She was the perfect wife,” her husband said. “Her unconditional support allowed us to engage in many organizations.”
A threefold descendant of the English Pilgrim ship The Mayflower, she lived in Arcadia for more than 50 years.
Ms. Renken is survived by her children Lori (Tom) Marino, Vicki Austin, Bob (Mila) Renken, John (Kelly) Renken, and Christy Cook; grandchildren, Jessica, Julia and Michael Marino; Nicole (Austin) Steverson (Christian) and Jeffrey Austin; Anika, William, Jack, Megan, Ryan and Sean Renken; Connor, McKenna, Emily, Sarah and Keith Cook; her brother Dick Howard; sister Kathy Howard; and numerous nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family invites gifts to the Joan Renken Scholarship Fund at the San Gabriel Valley chapter of Friends of Foster Children. For information, call (626) 863-0673 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.