Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 11, 2013

Joanne Elizabeth Douglass


Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — FRANKFORT — Joanne Elizabeth (Johnson) Douglass, a Frankfort resident since 1991, died on March 17, 2013, in Muncie, Ind., surrounded by her family and listening to Joni Mitchell. She was 84.

Joanne was born in 1928 in Syracuse, N.Y., as the only child of Abbott Livingston Johnson II and Elizabeth “Betty” Gregory Johnson. She spent most of her childhood in Muncie, Ind., growing up in the Westwood home her parents built.

In 1945 she graduated from Muncie’s Burris High School, where she worked on the yearbook and played volleyball. She attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts, graduating in 1949 with a major in history.

She moved to New York City and became a copywriter for Harper’s Bazaar and an avid fan of the Big Apple and its many cultural offerings.

She wed James Noyes Douglass in Muncie in 1956, and they started a family in a tiny apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village. The family moved to Muncie in 1962. Joanne and Jim were married for more than two decades, and after their divorce the pair remained close and reunited for family events until Jim’s death in 1985.

In addition to her family duties, Joanne occasionally wrote freelance articles, was a member of Women in Communications and Psi Iota Xi, a Cub Scout Den Mother and volunteered for Meals on Wheels, the Bargain Box and various political campaigns. She was on the “Central Committee” that launched Muncie’s public television station, WIPB, in 1971.

She played tennis and golf, read voraciously and easily established lasting friendships in diverse circles.

Joanne took courses in photography and delved deeply into literature – especially the work of William Faulkner and T.S. Eliot.

She earned a master’s degree in English from Muncie’s Ball State University in 1983, and taught English courses there as a graduate assistant. Later she took up residence in Frankfort and Phoenix, Ariz.

Her ties to northern Michigan began with a family home built on Walloon Lake in the early 1900s, and they grew stronger through occasional vacations there with her young family. Her father vacationed and golfed in Frankfort later in life and bought a house at Crystal Downs in 1982. Joanne owned and enjoyed the same home for the last 22 years, and for a few years also had a condominium at Michigan Shores.

Joanne was a member of the League of Women Voters Grand Traverse Area and took part in an informal Unitarian Universalist group as well as C3 North, an offshoot of Grand Haven-based C3 Exchange (formerly Christ Community Church). She supported local environmental and Democratic causes and enjoyed the Benzie Shores District Library as well as her favorite eateries: The Trick Dog, Coho Café, Fusion Restaurant and the Manitou.

Throughout her life she was avant-garde, embracing modern art and furniture, social and political causes and appreciating cultural offerings across the spectrum. She was a strong supporter of local artists, and she filled her homes with their work. Her passion for movies was absolute. She took her young kids to movies she wanted to see (and that were well outside the World of Disney) and later became a fervent patron of the Traverse City Film Festival.

When Joanne’s friends contributed remembrances to help celebrate her 75th birthday, they described her as quick-witted, strong-willed, well-read, self-deprecating, intelligent, opinionated, quixotic, resilient, impractical, generous, beautiful, supportive, fun, uninhibited, loyal and more. Her kids and grandkids will remember her as all those things and a great mom as well.

She is survived by her four children, James Douglass, Janet Sharp Kershaw, Elizabeth Douglass and David (Shawn) Douglass; grandchildren, Elizabeth and Tucker Sharp; and many other relatives from the East Coast to the California desert.

To celebrate Joanne’s life and share stories with her Michigan friends, her family will host a reception and calling hours on Saturday, July 20, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., at the Coho Café, 320 Main Street, Frankfort, MI. A memorial service was held April 13, 2013, at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Muncie, Ind.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to the Traverse City Film Festival, PO Box 4064, Traverse City, MI 49685.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at http://obits.meeksmortuary.com/View.aspx?oID=2215.


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