Obituary: Joan Houlton April 18, 1938 – Feb. 2, 2022

Joan Houlton peacefully left this world on Wednesday, February 2 at the age of 83, surrounded by her family in Los Alamos, New Mexico. She was born Edna Joan McClellan on April 18, 1938 to Orson and Olive McClellan in Alamosa, Colorado. To all who knew her well, she was known as Joan, spoken as “Jo-An.” She married Jerome (Jerry) Houlton on July 22, 1953, and they shared a life together for 56 years before he preceded her in death in 2009.  She was also preceded in death by her parents Orson and Olive McClellan, older brother Elmer McClellan, and older sister Wauneta Lacey.

Joan and Jerry Houlton moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1963 to take advantage of an employment opportunity with Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. At that time, the family had grown with the addition of five children: Debbie, Bobby, Susie, Tommy, and Brenda. In the next year, they added another daughter, Lauri. The Houltons were assigned a government owned “Sundt” near downtown Los Alamos, across the street from the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory Tech Area 1. 

After settling into their new home, Joan’s family became active in The Christian Church of Los Alamos. In addition to devoting lots of time to her family, she cooked for various special church functions and Wednesday night church dinners. During the summers of the 1970’s, she also served as the head cook for El Porvenir Christian Camp. Joan enthusiastically enjoyed a number of hobbies, including bowling, sewing, knitting and crocheting, writing short stories and poetry, gardening, reading, and she enjoyed adventures and traveling. After retirement, she loved spending four years traveling coast to coast in an RV with Jerry. She loved her family and considered them her greatest blessing. 

She is survived by her six children: Debbie Smith (Shelby) of Allen, Texas, Bob Houlton (Pam), of Los Alamos, New Mexico, Susan Spach of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tom Houlton of White Rock, New Mexico, Brenda Kelley (Ed) of White Rock, New Mexico, and Lauri Van Lyssel (Ross) of Los Alamos, New Mexico. She is also survived by 50+ grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, brother Pat McClellan, and a number of beloved nieces, nephews, and friends.

The family asks that any gifts be given as scholarships for children to attend “El Porvenir Christian Camp.”  These gifts can be given through The Los Alamos Christian Church. A memorial service for friends and family is planned to be held in April of this year, and details will be available through The Christian Church in Los Alamos, NM.

The family has chosen the gentle care of Rivera Family Funeral Home in Los Alamos. Please visit Joan’s interactive obituary at to leave messages, pictures and stories.