I must have been 16 or so when I first met Joan. She gave me a leather handbag - leather! She had finished university, studied in Paris, spoke french and was working in New York. She was the most sophisticated person I'd ever met and although I was the youngest of my family, she instantly treated me as an adult. I was in love.

A sign of the times - it must have been 1967 - she told me in our chats together that she was glad she'd waited to get married - she was all of 25.

At a time like this, it's a small consolation to consider what we've learned from Joan - what's inside us and will always be there because of knowing her. For me, first of all, will be her salad dressing and her potato salad - food is first, of course. But more importantly, she taught me a key lesson on parenting.

When Rebecca was about 3, she, Joan and I were on a bus in one of the national parks - yosemite? - out West. A large folding door on the bus hissed shut and rebecca turned to her mom, as all three-year olds do, pointed to the door and said "What's that, mommy?" I don't know about you, but I would have said, "That's the door of the bus, rebecca and it's shutting so we don't fall out."

But no, Joan said "that's a pneumatic device that causes the pressure on the door hinges which makes the door seal air-tight" and she went on a bit, explaining the physics of the door and the bus. Rebecca took this all in with large eyes and repeated back to joan "noo-matic 'vice."

Was it any surprise then, that the girls grew up to be the people they are? She was proud of the girls but not so you would know it. My cousin Bonnie was fond of telling the story of the first time Julie was given cotton candy, aged 3 and said, "I wish I had an infinity of cotton candy." Bonnie told Joan this story and Joan said, "Well, she probably heard an adult use the word." The fact was, she expected her children to speak precisely and they still do.

For example, I recently asked Rebecca if she had time to skype me. Rebecca said she looked forward to talking but Zach was going through a growth spurt and she wasn't sure if she would be able to make the call. A growth spurt, I wondered?

When we did speak, she explaned that he'd been fussy. Most mothers would call that an irritable baby. But Rebecca, true to the spirit of Joan, knew that the fussing was entirely due to the baby's need for more milk because he was growing. So she was busy, increasing his feeds.

Others can and will talk of Joan's amazing artistic talent, her love of the beaches on lake michigan where we walked every summer and her devotion to us, her family. But I suppose what I'm also mourning, along with my brother, is the amazing marriage the two of them had - a real corker of a marriage, one that never wavered. They had what the English call "blazing rows" but you always knew it would be ok. Only Joan could call ron Crapo and get away with it.

It was an honor to have Joan in our family. She left us too soon.