Joan Darrah, 72, a former mayor of Stockton and granddaughter of the founder of the Dearden's furniture store chain, died Friday at her home in Stockton after a two-year battle against ovarian cancer, according to the DeYoung Memorial Chapel in Stockton.
Darrah was elected mayor of the San Joaquin Valley city in 1990 -- the first to be chosen by municipal vote rather than selected from the City Council -- and served until 1996.
A political novice, Darrah had been a schoolteacher, high school counselor and public relations executive before winning election in 1990. She later wrote a memoir of her time in office, "Getting Political: Stories of a Woman Mayor."
Joan Van den Akker was born in Los Angeles on April 6, 1935. She got her bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley in 1956 and her master's from Stanford in 1960.
A year later she married James P. Darrah, who went on to become a Superior Court judge in San Joaquin County.
She earned a degree in education from the University of the Pacific in 1974 and served on the university's Board of Regents from 1976 to 1989.
Her grandfather, Edgar Dearden, opened the first Dearden's department store at 7th and Main streets in downtown Los Angeles in 1910. She served on the company's board of directors until her death.