Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Joann Peckham

This blog post was very difficult to write and I put it off for a while.  I photographed Joann at her home and her husband Wayne joined us as we chatted.  I asked if I could take some photographs of Wayne, too, and we had a very pleasant time.

Wayne passed away the following afternoon, June 10, 2011, completely unexpectedly.

It was a terrible time for their family and it felt too awkward to write about them just then.  I have to say am am so glad Wayne agreed to be photographed, since the photographs were really nice and I was glad I could give the family some prints to use at his funeral.  It made me realize, as I have many times, how important it is to have good recent photographs of those we love.

I met Joann at my aerobics exercise class at The Fitness Edge.  She struck me right away because of her patrician profile and general dignity.  (Yes, I often look at a person for photogenic appeal, I have to admit.)  She was cordial and a little reserved, but we got to know each other enough for me to ask if she would consider being part of this photo essay.

Joann was born in Little River, Kansas in 1935.  She told me she and Wayne, whom she met when he was stationed in Topeka in the Air Force, consciously laid out plans for their life, starting with family, keeping their interests and exploring ideas.  They discovered that they both came from families with numerous adoptees and ended up adopting their own two children Karoline and Kris.

Joann and Wayne came from large families and Wayne's family added a brother after a young boy his grandmother was babysitting was abandoned.  He was later adopted which was not that unusual during the Great Depression.  The branches of both families continued the tradition of adoption down to the present.  That emphasis on nurturing families lead Joann and Wayne to a lifelong interest in genealogy and family history.

Joann's family were pioneers.  Her paternal grandfather was from Alsace and emigrated to Kansas after his mandatory two-year service in the German army was about to be extended against his will.  Their family were farmers and raised horses.  Her mother's parents, from England and France, also emigrated and raised fruit trees on the prairie.

Wayne's ancestor Sir John Peckham arrived in Boston with Sir Henry Vane, later Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1635.  Wayne's family has been in The New World for 13 generations and he was descended from three passengers on the Mayflower.

Joann and Wayne returned to New England after they were married and settled in Vermont in the early 1960s.  Wayne taught drafting at CVU for over 30 years and Joann retired from where she managed the Office of the UVM Faculty Organization.  She had a very rewarding career at UVM,  working with the UVM Faculty Senate, getting to know the active professors and Executive Council.

 Joann was always a volunteer, leading Cub Scouts when her son was younger, teaching Sunday school and after retirement she for the American Cancer Society and Heart Association.  Now she likes to help where she can, but without a set schedule so she can come and go as she likes and attend events that interest her.  She keeps in shape and happy by walking, aqua exercise and keeping up with her far-flung family and friends.

While I have always been interested in history, the fascination with my personal history was never much on my mind.  (I have been an avid collector of old family photographs, of course, mine and complete strangers'.)  After visiting with Joann and Wayne, I am intrigued and am glad my brother Peter has recently taken on an in depth family genealogy project for us.

Update April 27, 2012:  Carol Lee Phillips informed our water aerobics group that Joann had passed away on April 25, due to complications of surgery.  My sincere condolences go out to her family and friends.