Joan Fresher of West Haven, Conn. and Edgartown died surrounded by her family at her home on Sunday, Oct. 9, following a short, valiant, and private battle with cancer.
Joanie was a woman of many talents and her passions ran deep and wide. She was a creative teacher, an inspiring artist, an intrepid sailor, a law-and-order shellfish warden, a steely financial investor, and a rough and tumble globetrotter. Despite all the diversity and richness of her life, she was, above all, most committed to being a mother, a grandmother, and a wife.
She was born in Port Chester, N.Y. on October 11, 1930, the daughter of Edward and Wilhelmina Morsheimer, and spent her childhood in the Greenwich, Conn. area. She graduated Greenwich HighSchool in 1947 and attended Teachers College of Connecticut where she received a bachelor of science degree in elementary education, majoring in art.
She taught art in schools in Rhode Island for many years and spent almost two decades as a teacher in the Milford, Conn. system. She furthered her education and earned a master’s degree in art from Wesleyan University and a certificate of advanced graduate studies from Sacred Heart University.
During her time as a teacher, she enriched the lives of children of all ages with the joys of Picasso and Matisse, creating Totem Poles, wild and weird plaster masks, and always sharing her joy of teaching with an unbound elation at all things colorful and creative. A gifted artist in her own right, she painted in her Martha’s Vineyard studio, turning out miracles of watercolors, evoking the fanciful and whimsical, and the contemplative alongside the provocative.
She was a great supporter of the Connecticut art scene as well as having many showings at various galleries around the Vineyard. Her art “wall-of-fame” includes many awards and ribbons collected for her work over the years.
She was an enthusiastic supporter of the Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs, teaching there as well as sending her grandchildren, year after year, to participate in their one-of-a-kind educational experiences.
Her love of Martha’s Vineyard started well over 50 years ago when she arrived in Oak Bluffs with her little sister for a “girls’ getaway” weekend (back in the 1960s). After a brief tour, the Island magic worked its spell. She was captivated and never looked back.
Her joys were many, the Bluefish Derby weigh-in, rides out on South Beach for early morning breakfasts, community sings, harvest fish dinners, mahjong at the senior center in Edgartown, clamming in Sengekontacket, (a secret place near Flaherty Point), and watching Malcomb chase the gulls. Her cottage on Jernegan Avenue had a reputation for hosting raucous evenings among her family and friends, with laughter exploding the roof beams, turning out the very best meals, and pouring copious amounts of beautiful wines in her pretty little, well-tended garden.
Her summer afternoons were spent at the Bend-in-the-Road. Year after year, she watched her children and then her grandchildren learn to swim and crab, walking along next to them searching for “beauties.” Her beach buddies made her laugh, sharing stories, gossip, and investing advice.
She and her soul-sister, Gramma Dottie, put their heads together and sorted out the world’s woes, with giggles, sage advice, and peppermint candies.
This past and her last summer on the Vineyard showed little sign of her winding down. The family came and stayed and stayed, some longer than others, bent on squeezing out every minute of fun, and sure enough, the good times flowed. Joanie went to the beach almost every day, enjoyed the usual cheerful conversations, lunches with friends, dinner parties, and even managed to fit in a salsa dance lesson at the P-A club with her grandchildren.
Joan was most comfortable on the go, her passport filled with exotic stamps nestled in the well-worn and rumpled edges. Her exploits over the years included camel rides along the Great Wall of China, sippingTurkish coffee in Bosnia, dodging sandstorms in Egypt, jumping into waterfalls in Jamaica, and smuggling Thanksgiving turkeys into Provence.
Her six children were the wind in her sails. She had a favorite, the one she smothered with treasures, extra doses of patience, the biggest piece of cake, the first to drive the new car, the one that got the socks that actually matched. The big problem with this theory is that each one of the six believe that they were one singled out as the favorite.
Her biggest gift was enriching the tapestry of the lives of others through experiences, a robust sense of humor, and thoughtful, gentle advice offered to her children and their friends seeking her counsel. If her children were the wind in her sails, her eight grandchildren were the stars she navigated by, enjoying their growth and laughter.
Finally, Joanie’s anchor, her husband, her long time partner and best friend was Robert Fresher, who survives her.
Joan Alice Fresher is also survived by her children, Kathleen Samways and son-in-law, John; Bruce Fresher, Brian Fresher and his wife, Allie; Brad Fresher, Margaret Fresher Flaherty and her devoted, loving husband Eddie; and Craig Fresher, with his wife Nanette.
And, her grandchildren, Margaret Samways and her new husband Jason Page, Molly Fresher, Sam Fresher, Thomas Fresher, Danny Fresher, Eamonn Flaherty, Abaigh Flaherty, and Claire Fresher.
Joanie is also survived by her sister Susan Connally and her children, Sheila, Patricia, and Rebecca; her niece Megan; and her nephews Jeffrey and Steven; as well as her sister-in-law, Jean Fresher, and her three children, Clark, Donna, and Michael.
Joanie’s mother and father, Minnie and Edward Morsheimer, as well her sister, Patricia Nelson, predeceased her. The family celebrated Joanie’s life with a reception among close friends at their Connecticut home October 11 and will again remember her with her Island friends during the coming summer of 2012.
The family asks that, instead of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Featherstone Center for the Arts, P.O. Box 1145, Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, 02557; The Connecticut Hospice, 100 Double Beach Road, Branford, Connecticut, 06405; or Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, 111 Edgartown Road, Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, 02568.