Joyce passed on but left a legion of memories for her work and loving presence among us.
on August 17, 2014 celebrating Joyce's extraordinary life in service to her family, her community and the environment.
Joyce Kathan, a longtime resident of Prospect, was a leader in the senior… (Courtesy of Nancy Lee Kathan )
August 17, 2014|By ANNE M. HAMILTON,
Special To The Courant
Kathan was a leader in the senior center movement in Connecticut,
lobbied for seniors at the Capitol, was a pioneer in seeking greater
options for women and worked hard to preserve the environment. Above
all, she sought to get others involved in causes they believed in.
received numerous awards for her work, including one from the United
Nations Association of the United States of America for her efforts
toward women's equality.
Kathan, 82, a resident of Prospect, died of kidney failure on June 18.
Marie Clark, the daughter of Herbert and Mabel Clark, was born on Oct.
28, 1931. She grew up in Middletown, where as a teenager she played the
organ at the local Methodist church.
She was still in high school
and the leader of a church youth group when Boardman Kathan, a young
Wesleyan student, began attending the group's meetings.
Joyce graduated from high school and started college, intending to become a teacher, but volunteer work at the Wheeler Clinic
in Hartford changed her mind, and she decided to work with older
people. Her experience taking care of two grandmothers also helped
confirm her career choice.
By 1951, her friendship with Kathan had
grown enough that they became engaged. By that time, he was attending
Yale Divinity School and about to go to the Netherlands on a Fulbright
Scholarship for a year, but Joyce still had not finished college. They
didn't want to postpone their marriage, and her father agreed that
college could wait.
So, they were married in 1952, and four days later they sailed for Europe.
During their time in Leiden, Joyce learned Dutch while her husband studied 17th century Dutch religious history.
their return, Boardman Kathan, known as Barney, finished divinity
school and was ordained as a minister in the United Church of Christ. He
served with several churches in the Midwest, where Joyce undertook the
role of the minister's wife and raised their three children. He later
worked for the UCC state conference in Boston, and then for an
interfaith organization in New York before returning to Connecticut in
Joyce went back to college, and graduated with a degree in
social work from Southern Connecticut State College in 1976. She became
director of the Woodbury Senior Center in 1976, where she developed many
The Kathans also were among the founders of the Connecticut Association of Senior Center Personnel.
was one of the leaders in the senior center field," John Hogarth, the
former director of the Meriden Senior Center said of Joyce Kathan. "She
was a pretty selfless person. She was very committed to advocacy for
Joyce Kathan suffered significant hearing loss for many
years, and she developed an award-winning program to teach senior
citizens to read lips. For years, she lobbied the town of Woodbury to
provide a new facility for the senior center — a goal that wasn't
achieved until after she retired in 1997.
also was involved for many years with the League of Women Voters; she
was president of the Cheshire chapter and served on the state board. She
was an active member of the American Association of University Women,
and served on many levels, including chapter president and state vice
president, and as a member of the national legislative committee.
persuaded the national AAUW to set environmental priorities, and
organized a network of people around the country to work on
environmental issues. In 1983, she was sent to the Netherlands to lead a
seminar on the environment.
She also helped lobby at the state
and federal level for equal pay for women, and for reproductive rights.
She deplored the lack of women in the sciences, and, together with a
friend, developed Brighten Your Future, an AAUW project that sent girls
to college for a week in the summer to study math and science.
became active in the Coalition on Aging, a non-profit group that
advocates for increased programs and services for older people. She
published their newsletter, set up an annual program, and organized the
Capitol Corps — older people who would go to the state Capitol every
week to visit lawmakers and attend committee meetings. She also was a
national coordinator in the effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment
to the Constitution.
As part of her environmental activism, she
wrote "A Citizen's Guide to Environmental Action," contributed a chapter
on the role of citizens and private organizations in combating health
hazards to "Management of Hazardous Agents," and also wrote the first
recycling handbook for the town of Cheshire. She also served on the
state environmental committee of the United Church of Christ.
was a wonderful example of a dedicated community volunteer you could
count on to do a good job," said Helen Raisz, an AAUW friend.
liked to see her ideas turn into action. "She was always a leader,
always upfront," said her husband. "She took no back bench."