Joan Lash of Chapel Hill, North Carolina
June 30, 1951 – December 24th, 2014
Joan Lash, 63, master of surprises, curator of traditions, creator of homes, world traveler, professional volunteer, devoted wife, loving mother, caring aunt, sister, and stepdaughter, and gracious friend, left us on the morning of Christmas Eve with her husband and son by her side.
Joan loved surprises, and lucky for us, her family was always on the receiving end. Whether it was new cars, boats, amazing vacations, or even just a mattress, there was always a hint of surprise in everything that was given that made them signature Joan Lash moments, which have all become lasting memories.
She also loved traditions, turning Christmas into a full four-day celebration beginning with fondue on Christmas Eve and always filled with enough votives to light a house without electricity. It is not lost on her family that she left us at the start of our favorite tradition. But it wasn’t just Christmas. Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Thanksgiving were also among the holidays that were made ever more special.
Her other talent was the ability to make a home out of a house. She had a knack for looking at a home, envisioning the renovations and design updates in her head, and then making them happen. From Boston, to Chapel Hill, to Long Island, and back to Chapel Hill, we have been blessed to live in some of Joan’s finest works in this area, each one as special as the last.
Joan was shaped early on by two fantastic work experiences. She started working in Boston with a great group of people at University Associates, where she was able to travel back and forth to Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and Egypt to recruit a number of physicians and nurses for a hospital in Riyadh. When the work was done and the recruitment agency closed, Joan followed the director to be his executive assistant at the Museum of Science in Boston. With this new position, she was able to be a part of a number of major projects, including bringing IMAX technology to the museum. Joan developed a deep affection for museums during this time, and one would think that she tried to see every museum in the world. Her son remembers, with varying levels of enthusiasm, being dragged to every museum possible in the 28 countries the family visited together. It was this love of culture and history that allowed Joan a very global and tolerant perspective on life, one that she would apply to all aspects of her being.
When Joan stopped working full time in 1994, she dedicated her time and talents to many volunteer opportunities, eventually telling people when asked her occupation that she was a “professional volunteer.” A better label could not be found, as Joan happily threw herself into organizing many amazing events and causes. Whether it was working with the Chapel Hill public school system, spending time with her investment club, finding beautiful artwork around the Hamptons for the Stony Brook University Hospital, or planning an art show or benefit, she loved them all, and was so joyful to have made many friends along the way doing her work.
As has been stated numerous times, Joan loved her family and friends. In Boston, she married Ray Williams, her husband of 33 years. She was his favorite (and only) wife, and he her favorite (and also only) husband. Soon thereafter, in 1985, they had their favorite (and only) child, a son Lee. We three have shared a special bond, and many special events together. Love was the key thing that helped us get through Joan’s diagnosis and aggressive cancer treatment, and we were very lucky to have always been best friends.
In addition to Ray and Lee, Joan is survived by a wonderful stepmother, Alice Lash; two brothers, Chris Lash and his wife, Mary, and Gary Lash, his wife Yvonne, and their children, Amy and Christopher; and her sister in law, Eleanor Zieman, husband Steve, and their children, Caroline, Stephen, and Sarah. She is also survived by many spouses and children of nieces and nephews, too many to list here but certainly not forgotten.
This list would not be complete without mentioning her incredible friends. Many of whom are so close that they are considered family. Joan loved her friends, and they loved her back. She always tried to listen and not pass judgment, and was genuinely interested in what was going on in their lives. Some of her favorite times were visits with her dear friends at many dinner parties, or reunions with her Kappa Kappa Gamma sisters from UConn. She so enjoyed communicating in person, via the phone or email, and most importantly, the written word. She was very grateful to count so many people as friends, and was especially touched by all of the tributes, thoughts, and prayers for her during her treatment.
Finally, while Joan lost the final battle with cancer, she certainly won the war by fighting with dignity and grace. We were blessed to have these last two years with her, and to be by her side as she moved on. We will always love her.
In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to your favorite charity or cause.
Joan Lash of Chapel Hill, North Carolina