Joanne Coffin Clark


Joanne Elizabeth Clark (née Coffin), 87, born in Cleveland, Ohio; formerly of Newtonville and Martha’s Vineyard; died peacefully after a long illness, surrounded by love, Feb. 17, 2017, at home in Wilmette, Ill.

Joanne was fortunate to inherit her family’s love of the sea and multigenerational history on Martha’s Vineyard. In youth she enjoyed sailing in their catboat, The Victor, later winning many a Vineyard-15 race in her own boat, the Sweet Sixteen.

During high school she worked summers at the Colonial Inn, and especially loved being a camp counselor and sailing instructor at the St. Pierre School of Sport in Vineyard Haven. The counselor reunions during her last years on the Island were treasured experiences.

Joanne graduated from Newton High School in 1947, then Boston’s Garland Junior College. She enjoyed a brief career modeling for Filene’s department store, appearing often in advertisements in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald. She later worked as a secretary in New York City and Washington, D.C., before returning to New York, where she started her family.

A whole new life began in 1964 when the family moved to Vermont to operate the Stratton Mountain Inn, a challenging but thrilling opportunity. The ski area’s early years brought wonderful memories and lifelong friendships, plus opportunities to pursue her love of fashion and design. She worked in the Norse House ski shop, opened her own boutique at the Inn, and regularly staged fashion shows throughout Southern Vermont. The Vineyard remained a constant, with summers spent there.

In 1980, Joanne moved permanently to her family home on the Island, the Jared Coffin House on School Street in Edgartown. She loved working in retail in several classic Island storefronts: the Country Store of Concord, Gift of Love, and the Chocolate Barn, to name a few.

A consummate people person, charming and gracious, always willing to help, usually with a wicked sense of humor and a great laugh, Joanne loved cooking and entertaining, and was always trying new things in the kitchen. Music (especially jazz) and art provided her constant joy.

Her curious mind and sense of style frequently brought new interests, like architecture and landscape design. A trip on the very first Vineyard solar home tour resulted in a beautifully designed and built South Mountain solar home. Always a passionate gardener, Joanne created a landscape for the property, stunning to this day.

After a brief foray into the competitive field of real estate, Joanne opted to follow her passion: the history of and her family’s role in the development of the Island, dating back to the 1600s. First a volunteer then a full-time employee of Martha’s Vineyard Museum (formerly the Dukes County Historical Society), Joanne was tremendously satisfied by working on the Dukes County Intelligencer, managing the office, and transcribing oral histories, which were then compiled into the great series “Vineyard Voices.”

Always a volunteer, she assisted at Polly Hill Arboretum, Featherstone, and the Christiantown Memorial (where her ancestor Frederick Baylies ministered to and taught English to the Wampanoag Indians, the indigenous people of the Island). Joanne was an active member of the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club, Edgartown Winter Yacht Club, and the Federated Church of Edgartown.

She was the beloved mother of Timothy (Dina) Coffin Clark; grandmother of Harry Coffin Clark; step-grandmother of Madison and Claire McVey; and aunt of Christopher (Holly), Peter, Davis (Kitty), William (Lisa), and Abigail Clark. Joanne was preceded in death by two young sons, Benjamin Coffin Clark and Jared Baylies Clark, parents Frederick and Dorothy (née Springer) Coffin, and former husband and dear friend David Whitehouse Clark.

A memorial service will be scheduled in summer 2017. Her remains are buried at Edgartown’s New Westside Cemetery.

Donations may be made in her name to the Adrenaleukodystrophy Foundation,, or the Martha’s Vineyard Museum,