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Healdsburg woman killed in blaze remembered as ‘good listener’

Thursday, November 8th, 2012 | Posted by

Friends and family always knew Juanita “Punky” Lownes would give them honest advice.

Lownes, who lived in Sonoma County almost her entire life, died Halloween morning when her motor home caught fire in west Healdsburg. She was 70.

Services are Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on Powell Avenue in Healdsburg. Following the service, a celebration of life will be

Juanita “Punky” Lownes

held at Johnson’s Winery, 8333 Highway 128.

County fire officials said the fire was accidental. Lownes’ daughter-in-law, Heather Lownes, said papers near a space heater may have ignited.

Family and friends said Lownes offered frank advice when asked.

“No matter who you were, where you came from, people seemed to be drawn to her, largely because she was a good listener,” Heather Lownes said. “But then she gave you honest feedback — no matter if you liked to hear it or not. You could rely on her to be a good listener, and have her tell you how it was.

“People kept going back to her to talk,” she said. “They’d say, ‘Hey Punky, what do you think?’ And she would tell you.”

Always ready with a smile and infectious laugh, Lownes often put her sage counsel in context: “This too shall pass,” she advised.

Lownes was born June 19, 1942, in Healdsburg, where she lived her whole life with the exception of a couple of years in Washington state, her daughter-in-law said. As country folk, the family began calling Juanita “Pumpkin,” which translated to Punkin’, and then Punky, which stuck throughout her life.

She wed her high school sweetheart, Robert Lownes of Healdsburg, to whom she was married for 31 years.

As a homemaker, she raised their two biological sons, Randy and Rob Lownes, and a niece they adopted, Tiesha Cowan. She also looked after neighborhood children.

Lownes loved music — especially Elvis Presley and Gary Allan — and it served as an emotional escape, her daughter-in-law said. She passed her love of music on to her three children.

Lownes also loved crocheting and reading and recently began enjoying her Kindle reader. She also loved to travel, mostly in the Western United States.

“Her favorite thing was to go to the ocean or to their cabin in Mendocino County,” Heather Lownes said. “She liked the sounds and smells of nature and just getting away from the rush.”

Lownes is survived by her children: Rob Lownes of Washington, D.C., Randy Lownes of Healdsburg, and Tiesha Cowan of Tacoma; sisters Toddy Kiefer of Yakima, Wash., and Debbie Harrington and Deanna Walters of Lakewood, Wash.; brothers Gordon Oldham of Entiat, Wash., and Ronny Oldham of Lakewood, Wash.; 10 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins; and her ex-husband, Robert.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Punky Lownes Memorial Fund at Bank of the West, (707) 431-4100.

— Lori A. Carter

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Ann Carranza,
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