Joan Carol Huebschman Penfil, 1938-2020, beloved daughter, mother and friend.

Joan was born in Cleveland, in 1938, the only child to Julian Huebschman, an attorney and entrepreneur, and Muriel Rosenstein Huebschman, a teacher. A tomboy who could throw a mean softball, Joannie, as she was known as a child, spent her early life climbing trees, reading books, and playing with her dog, Beauttie.

Joan attended Taylor Road Elementary School, Roosevelt Junior High School, and Cleveland Heights High School, from which she graduated in 1956. Along with her cousin, Michael Glueck, she was confirmed at The Temple-Tifereth Israel in 1953. Joan remained in touch with her childhood cohort throughout her life, including a group of nine girlfriends who called their informal high school club “Semper Amicae Verae (SAV)”, meaning “always true friends.”

An eager and bright student, Joan graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with a bachelor’s degree in 1960, when fewer than seven percent of American women graduated from college. While at Ann Arbor, she met her husband, Richard Lee Penfil, of Lansing, Mich.

They were married on Aug. 11, 1961, at The Temple.

Joan had hoped to go to medical school with her husband, but when her father refused to pay the tuition because she was “a girl,” she switched to humanities, where she could earn her way through with teaching assistant fellowships. She received a master’s degree from Wayne State University in Detroit with a thesis on Frank Lloyd Wright.

Joan supported her husband while he finished his medical training by working as an elementary school teacher. The Penfils had two daughters, Elizabeth Kimberly (Kyhm) in 1966 and Brett Alexandra in 1968, and settled in Newport Beach, Calif., in 1971. They were the tenth family to move into Big Canyon, where Joan showed her competitive spirit as a tennis player on Big Canyon Country Club’s Hill and Harbor league team.

Joan raised her daughters with the same enthusiasm for education and culture that she enjoyed. She was a creative and playful mom, providing Kyhm and Brett with calamine lotion and paintbrushes when they had chickenpox, hopping with Brett around Fashion Island in matching Wallabees, and pyramid-shaped matzah balls with both daughters.

Joan returned to school to earn her J.D. at Western State College of Law, graduating in 1985.

She spent almost three decades practicing family law in Orange County, Calif. She loved being a lawyer and was dedicated to her clients, many of whom became life-long friends.

Joan was a thoughtful and generous friend, colleague, and mentor, often sending gifts, organizing events, and providing help to others. An avid devotee of the performing arts, she had season tickets to the ballet and South Coast Repertory Theater and never missed the Pageant of the Masters. She was a voracious reader who made great use of the Newport Beach Public Library, particularly in her later years. Joan enjoyed living in Newport Beach and connecting people to each other. She could often be found doing just that at Gelson’s, shopping for groceries and catching up with neighbors and friends.

Joan is survived by her daughters Kyhm Penfil of Newport Coast and Brett Penfil of Corte Madera. The family will hold a private burial at Harbor Lawn and a remote memorial at a future time.

You are invited to contact Kyhm at and/or Brett at with memories of Joan.