Joan Williams (Harriman) Johnson

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Joan H. Johnson, 84

YARMOUTH – Joan Williams Harriman Johnson, 84, passed away Jan. 13, 2018, following a period of declining health. She spent her last few days surrounded by loving family and friends at Bay Square at Yarmouth Assisted Living.

Joan was born in Hanover, N.H., on Nov. 14, 1933, to Lucy Hale Williams, a landscape architect; and Dr. John W. Harriman, an economics professor at The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Joan left her own mark in Hanover when she designed the Hanover Marauder's logo during her junior year in high school. Sixty years later, the logo is still in use.

Joan's father was stationed overseas during World War II and she spent many vacations traveling by ship to Europe at a young age. She moved frequently in the U.S., and eventually settled back in Hanover. Joan was an avid horseback rider and skier, spending her early years at summer camps in New Hampshire and Maine, and at their farm in Franconia, N.H., where she often hosted a group of Hanover High friends, all of whom remain close today. On one occasion, while visiting the nearby Nash homestead in Vermont, she met Robert Frost. "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" would be one of the last poems Joan would hear before she passed.

Joan attended the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she majored in English and met her first husband, John (Jack) Watson, of Denver. She was active in Greek life and formed a lifelong bond with her Delta Delta Delta sorority sisters.

Joan and Jack moved East, settling in Sudbury, Mass., where they raised four children and she was an active volunteer in the community. The family enjoyed ski vacations up north and summers in Wellfleet on Cape Cod. When the kids grew older, they joined the Sudbury Ski Club and Buddy Werner Race League. Always a writer, she put her talents to use covering the races in the local paper.

In 1973, Joan married James Johnson (Jim) and the family moved to Carlisle, Mass., where she became involved in old home restoration and the animal refuge league. Joan had a soft spot for animals and her home was never without its contingent of adopted cats, dogs, guinea pigs and the random chicken. Working at an environmental camp, she would occasionally bring home an injured or abandoned animal to nurse back to health, the most memorable being a baby raccoon.

As empty-nesters, Joan and Jim took government positions in Washington, D.C., and relocated to Capitol Hill. There, they purchased a house built in the late 1800s and Joan joined the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, hosting home tours over the holidays.

One of their most memorable life events were the years they spent in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The camel necklace Joan wore was a reminder of their time there and sparked lively conversation.

During their years overseas they were fortunate to travel extensively, hosting and meeting their children and grandchildren in locations around the world. Joan and Jim retired to Cape Cod, eventually settling in Osterville. They were members of the Hyannis Yacht Club, enjoying trips with the "power squadron" where they made many friends. Their favorite stories included traveling the intracoastal waterway with their cat Isha to and from their home in Naples, Fla., and the Cape. Their children and grandchildren frequently accompanied them on trips to Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and Maine, one of their favorite destinations.

One of Joan's last great adventures was in 2013 when she was 78 years young. She embarked on a week-long excursion with the girls in the family -- her three daughters and four granddaughters -- traveling through two of America's famed National Parks, Yellowstone and the Tetons.

Joan never forgot a birthday, anniversary or a celebration. Almost any event justified sending a card or gift. She will be remembered for her smiling eyes, her love of music, and fondness for animals, both of which kept her spirits up in her waning days.

Joan is survived by her children, Cynthia Watson and husband Bob Gross of Yarmouth; Janice Watson Camp and partner David Wendel of Harwich, Mass.; Barbara Watson of Bozeman, Mont.; and John Watson of Hancock, Mass. She leaves seven grandchildren, Hilary Gross and husband John Barker, Jack and Matthew Gross, William, Lucie and Aly Camp, and Hadley Marshall. She leaves behind her cat, Lovey, and many friends from all chapters of her life.

Joan was predeceased by her husband, and her half sister, Clemewell Mary Young.

Joan and her family are especially grateful to all of her caregivers: Comfort Keepers of Cape Cod, Aging Excellence of Maine, CHANS Hospice of Brunswick, and the incredible staff at Bay Square at Yarmouth.

A celebration of Joan's and Jim's life is planned for Memorial Day weekend on Cape Cod for family and friends. A private burial at sea will follow.

Donations in Joan's memory may be made to:
Animal Refuge League
of Greater Portland
P.O. Box 336
Westbrook, ME 04098
Alley Cat Allies
7920 Norfolk Avenue, Ste. 600
Bethesda, MD 20814-2525

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Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on Feb. 4, 2018
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