Published: June 18, 2019
SAUGERTIES, N.Y. — Joan Waters Keefe, 98, passed away peacefully on May 12, 2019. She was born on February 22, 1921 to the late Charles and Jane Waters in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where Joan spent many summers with her three siblings and extended family. Joan grew up in Norfolk, Va., Baltimore and Atlanta.
Joan met James Keefe in 1st grade in Norfolk and reconnected with him shortly before World War II and Jim’s deployment to North African and Europe. Joan joined the Women’s Army Corps (WACs) and worked in defense plants during the war while keeping in touch with Jim. After the war, they married and lived in Poughkeepsie before moving to Saugerties in 1956.
Joan was a homemaker and active in community organizations, such as Community Action. She was instrumental in the formation of the first Saugerties senior citizens organizations and worked with the Council of Churches to obtain federal funds to build the Senior Citizens apartment complex on Main Street in Saugerties. Joan ran for Town Clerk in 1967 and was a longtime member of the Saugerties Democratic Committee, actively working her district door to door through 2010. She was involved in the peace and justice community for 50 years and attended many demonstrations and events. Joan was an active member of Veterans for Peace and a founding member of the King’s Mall 7, protesting the Iraq War at the military recruitment center in the mall, and was arrested there multiple times.
Joan graduated from Ulster County Community College in 1974 and shortly thereafter opened The Fancy Flea, an antique shop on Market Street in Saugerties that she operated full time into her 80s.
Joan was predeceased by her son, Jimmy Keefe, her daughter, Betty Keefe Petramale, and her former husband, James Keefe. She is survived by her daughter, Karen Keefe of Kingston, son, Tom Keefe (Judy Doesschate) of Albany, granddaughter, Jessica Keefe of Saugerties, and grandsons Kevin Keefe (Maureen Strutzman) of Oakland, Calif., and Ben Keefe (Maria) of Big Sky, Mont. Joan is also survived by her great-grandchildren, Nathanial Auer, Morgan and Patrick Bennett, of Saugerties, and Joan Stutzman-Keefe, of Oakland, born in January and named in honor of Joan. Joan is also survived by many good friends, including Mike and Cindy Saporito who provided Joan with unending love and support in her final decades, Donald Curry, who routinely took Joan to the movies and dinner Friday nights, including after she moved to Ten Broeck Commons, and Stephen Kurman who regularly shared his hilarious sense of humor by phone.
Joan was an amazing and inspirational woman, showing us all how to live life to its fullest, fight for what is right and love unconditionally. In addition to her activism, she was known for enjoying a good Manhattan, writing wonderful, thoughtful letters, throwing big 4th of July porch parties, jumping rope into her 70s, always having a life in her step and living life in the moment. We were all so lucky to have her as our mom, mother-in-law, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, mentor, advocate and fellow human walking this planet, always trying to make the world a better place.
The family wishes to thank the staff at Ten Broeck Commons for their kind, compassionate and professional care of Joan these past three years.
Per Joan’s wishes, her body has been donated to science. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to Paws Unlimited, 637 Murray Road, Kingston NY 12401 (pawsunlimited.com).
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