Sometime in the early 1980s, while teaching my Advanced Racquetball class, on a fairly hot evening, a colleague and I were sitting on the concrete hallway floor of the Napa Valley College gym, our backs against the wall. The concrete was cool to our legs and back and we were talking about my colleague's athletic skills. Because the class was advanced, I was comfortable with my students playing doubles once I was confident in their abilities in what could potentially be a dangerous enterprise.

JoAnn Busenbark had surprised me by signing up for the previous semester's class, a beginning/intermediate class and had done quite well. This evening, she had just rotated out of a court and we were talking about her skills. She was a gifted athlete and we were discussing the ups and downs of racquetball as an exercise promoting health.

We had been sitting thus for several minutes when we each turned to look at each other and said simultaneously to the other, "Did you feel that?" What we felt and heard slightly was the dynamic shaking of a California temblor: an earthquake.

We both jumped up and headed for the courts in case we had to evacuate the building, but that one rumble and shake was it. We learned later that it was about a 3.2 -- noticeable and nervy,  but generally nothing to worry about.

No one in the courts even noticed it and were surprised when I told them about the event.

Over the years, even as her community stature expanded, I found her approachable, equitable and a good listener. She was out-spoken when she needed to be; never seem to go soft on hard decisions; and was able to admit she was wrong about an issue (being wrong was not a frequent occurrence), and incorporate and adjust to new ideas.

She would have made a great attorney, had she chosen to go that route. Thankfully for Napa Valley College, and for the Napa community, she did not. Instead, she chose a life of service to the benefit of almost uncountable college students and Napa community members.

I first heard of JoAnn's passing at a City Council meeting May 21. Mayor Jill Techel announced at the opening of the evening session that the adjournment at the end of the session would be in "...honor of former council member JoAnn Busenbark, who passed away a few days ago."

Although I can't claim that we were friends, we were collegiate colleagues who had respect for each other. Mayor Techel's announcement was as though someone had taken a hammer to one of my toes.

Richard Bruns


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