Joan Elizabeth Faulkner Harrison died on September 16, 2023, from natural causes related to her 91 well-lived years of life.
Joan was born on December 24, 1931, to Doris Elva Graves and James Farley Faulkner in Belleville, Ontario, Canada. Her parents lived in Farley’s family home for several years with Joan and her younger brother, Albert. Joan was very close to her grandparents, Helen Aurelia Vermilyea and Dr. James Albert Faulkner. When her parents divorced, Joan moved to Toronto and learned that she adored the big city. Early in high school, Joan fell passionately in love with two things, ballet and the man who would become her husband, John Eugene Harrison (Gene). After high school, Joan began nurse’s training, following a family tradition in medicine. Much to her disappointment, Joan had to leave college due to the “rules of the day” after she
married Gene on August 8, 1952. Together Joan and Gene had five children, Kevin, Mary, Robert, Ann and Molly. The young family emigrated to the northeastern United States due to a job transfer. Joan waxed poetic about the ideals on which the US was founded and while she always loved her native Canada, she never failed to proudly vote in every US election.
The young couple ended up building a family farm in the Bristol Mountains. Gene continued to grow his career in Rochester as an executive and electronic engineer while he and Joan somehow managed to raise a wide variety of animals, crops and children. Though they remained best friends for life, Gene and Joan divorced in 1972. While still raising her children, Joan proudly attended and graduated at 45 from Hobart and William Smith College majoring in Psychology and Elementary Education. In 1978 Joan embarked on what she said was the best move of her life. She relocated with Molly to San Diego County, California, where Gene and Ann had been living. Joan broadened her interests exponentially and thrived in her new life avidly running 10k races on the beach, bicycling, backpacking and exploring the beauty that entranced her in California’s deserts, mountains and giant forests.
Joan’s rather late-in-life career included working in Escondido, California, as a counselor with the National Council on Alcoholism. She then returned to her love of children choosing to be a paraprofessional at schools in San Marcos, California, Ontario County, New York, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Joan found unique connection, fulfillment and joy in working with profoundly and multiply disabled individuals to improve their quality of life. These extremely challenged people are mostly hidden in our society, but they were truly seen and loved by Joan.
Joan studied all the world’s religions and she seemed to particularly believe in the Buddhist practice of non-attachment. After her kids were grown, every few years Joan would give away about everything she owned and move to a new adventure. When Molly and Warren needed help with their three children, Joan would pack up and move in with the family ultimately living with them in Pittsford, New York, and both Truckee and Nevada City, California. Joan’s daughter Ann and son-in-law Jeffery Barker built a guest house on their property in Zebulon, North Carolina, where Joan also enjoyed living on and off over several years. She frequently spent summers with Mary and Mark on the family farm. In this way, Joan pivoted wherever she felt needed, always trying to spend significant time with her family whenever and wherever she was invited. Ann and Molly’s families particularly benefitted from these years of multi-generational integration with their children Roger and Emily Barker and Tiffany Hopkins, Hannah and Amara Pfahl.
Joan loved extended visits by the sea to see her son and daughter-in-law, Robert and Vicki Harrison, with their children, Robbie, Graham and Alana on Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. She also adored spending time with her Canandaigua, New York family, Mary and Mark Munson with grandchildren Sarah (Brandon Wood) and Phillip (Sandi) as well as Kevin and Mary Harrison with grandchildren, Wesley, Brian (Katie), Cameron (Gheeta) and Rosalie. Along with her five children and fourteen grandchildren, Joan is survived by thirteen great-grandchildren including Zeke Barker (born just one day after Joan’s death); Aurelia and Desmond Wilson; Henry Harrison; Charlotte, Kaiden, Ella and Abram Wood; Lily, Paige and Sophie Munson; and Ruby and Noelle Harrison. During and after COVID, her daughters’ homes were once again a welcome and comfortable place for Joan to live.
Joan’s in-laws and cousins remained significant people in her life. She was an avid writer to stay in touch with them, in particular, Margaret Harrison, Saundra Faulkner, and Claire Molson as well as her half-sister, Jean Keenan, who pre-deceased Joan by almost exactly one year. Jean was born in London, England, and she never knew her father, Farley Faulkner. It was to Joan’s great joy that Jean’s daughter Lucy was successful in learning about her family and helping reconnect several Faulkner family members in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Having a sister was one of the best things that ever happened to Joan and their time together was all too short.
Later in life, Joan gave up driving and her passion for walking kept her not just physically active and strong. When she walked, Joan felt oneness with the trees and all of nature around her noticing plants, animals, air, light and smells. As a senior citizen, Joan lived in Canandaigua and walked daily sometimes several miles to church or to the lake no matter the weather. In fact, she adored being out in rain or snow or wind! Joan was a devoted Episcopalian attending St. John’s in Canandaigua and St. Michael’s in Raleigh. Her fellow parishioners described Joan’s kindness, selflessness and gentleness as a gift to all who knew her. Joan continued to take classes in religious study and actively volunteered in her community including at church, the Gleaners Community Kitchen, and Meals on Wheels. Joan deeply felt the pain of social injustice and of our world’s environmental degradation. Whenever possible, she attended peace marches and participated in environmental activism with the group Grandmothers for Peace.
Joan was an intelligent, passionate and loving human and she will always be missed. A service is tentatively planned for the chapel at Woodlawn Cemetery on April 7, 2024.