In Memoriam, Joan Whitney, 1929-2019
It is with great sadness that we inform our readers that New Haven activist Joan Whitney passed away on Saturday, Nov. 9, at age 90.
Joan was a member of many activist organizations as well as neighborhood and cultural associations. Among the groups she worked with, gave leadership to, and supported are: Progressive Action Roundtable, Greater New Haven Labor History Association, Greater New Haven Cat Project, Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, Parkfriends, Twenty-Twenty Vision, May Day Celebration Committee, Cherry Blossom Festival, New Haven Coalition Against War in the Gulf, Peace and Justice News and Views, Connecticut Peace Coalition/New Haven, Pledge of Resistance, Amistad Catholic Worker, New Haven/León Sister City Project, Creative Arts Workshop, New Haven Green Party, Long Wharf Theater and Yale Repertory Theater.
In addition to being part of many peace groups, for about 20 years, from 1990 on, she handed out flyers against war on a weekly basis on New Haven street corners.
Joan was born in Springfield Mass., and grew up as an “army brat.” She lived in many places as the family moved to wherever her father was stationed, including Geneva, NY, where her dad took command of the Seneca Ordnance. Several decades later, after her father passed, Joan was arrested for Civil Disobedience at the Seneca Ordnance as she climbed the fence with a No Nukes sign.
Joan was a 1950 graduate of Wellesley College and received a Master’s in Social Work at UConn in W. Hartford. She was a founder of Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC) and worked at its community outpatient program in Bridgeport and New Haven.
She was a contributor to many charities. After her cat Phoebe passed in 1999, she created the Phoebe Foundation and generously funded it for the welfare of people and cats.
Joan generously offered her home as meeting space for many of her groups to plan their actions. She was a gracious hostess and livened up the meetings with her wry sense of humor and sharp perceptions.
For about 30 years she hosted an open house on New Year’s Day, featuring many varieties of soup and other appetizers. This gentle, loving way to welcome in a new year became a much-loved tradition for her friends.
Her daughter Dana predeceased her this past March as did her sister Jane in 2010. Our deepest sympathy to her son Christopher and daughter Rosemary.
We are grateful to have known Joan, worked with her, learned from her and laughed with her.