Joanne attended Maryknoll School and graduated from Immaculate High School in Seattle before entering Seattle College in 1941. While a Seattle College student, she and her family were ordered to report for internment at the Puyallup Fairgrounds and then were sent to the more permanent camp at Minidoka, Idaho.
After Minidoka, Joanne attended Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, but was not able to complete her degree. She married Shigeo Watanabe in Minneapolis in 1942, and Shigeo was sent to Japan with the Military Intelligence Service. After his return in 1946, they moved to Seattle, and Joanne settled into what she regarded as her life's most meaningful task: raising eight children.
Joanne was active in her children's school, St. Mary's Grade School; St. Mary's Church; and volunteer activities with the Nisei Veterans Committee's Women's Auxiliary.
In her early 60s, Joanne entered the work force as a directory assistance operator at Pacific Northwest Bell and became a valued and respected employee.
Her children recall, "She was always there for us with elaborate meals, rides home, faithful attendance at our sporting events. She encouraged us to take on new adventures and delighted in our stories about them. She inspired us to think about God and life in more complex ways. To that end she gave of herself unstintingly. Despite her family's size, the strength of her love wove it together in a unity that will continue." She died July 22, 1994.