Joan was born in Pahiatua, New Zealand on 1 December 1910, the second daughter of Walter Theodore Keddell and his wife Agnes Millicent (nee Cotton and a great-grandaughter of Thomas and Ann Stone). After attending the Pahiatua District High School she worked in a drapery shop before moving to Napier on 6 January 1931 to become a nurse at the Napier Public Hospital.
She was a popular member of staff and five weeks later, on the 3 February 1931 she was on day duty at the Hospital when at 10.46 am Napier and the whole of the Hawkes Bay region was hit by a massive earthquake (magnitude 7.8) which although it only lasted for two and a half minutes raised the land by about two metres and destroyed most of the buildings in central Napier, including the hospital.
According to newspaper reports of the time she was “heroically assisting in the rescue work when the building collapsed” and she became one of the 256 people who lost there lives in the disaster.
Apparently it was some time before her fate was known and “Her father, who was distracted, wandered about Napier for five hours before he could obtain definite news regarding his daughter’s fate.”
See: Manawatu Standard, Volume LI, Issue 57, 6 February 1931 and Wairarapa Daily Times, 6 February 1931