Auntie Joan was a rebel. She had spunk and charisma and passion and the cutest rosy cheeks… all of the necessary traits required to get things done. Over the years, I was blessed to watch her “work her magic” as a leader not only in our family but in our community as well. I was simply in awe of her, and I am ever so grateful for the influence that she has had on my life.
She was mother to eight children, a registered nurse, our town’s first female Chairperson of the Board of Selectman, and so much more. Whenever an opportunity presented itself to make something better, she never hesitated to take action… creating Tewksbury’s first drug awareness program, building a new school and fire station and police station, welcoming my Nana to live with her as she battled Parkinson’s disease, coaching me on strategies to convince my Dad to quit smoking… She had a hand in so many amazing transformations. She was, indeed, “the change.”
I always loved my visits with her. Auntie Joan had a wonderful memory and delighted in sharing the details of all of her adventures. Her laugh couldn’t help but warm your heart as it sprang from her soul. But she had lessons to share, as well. She was the first to tell me that, “God gives the heaviest burdens to those who can bear the cross.” At first, I saw it as a message about sheer strength… that our Almighty would only give us as much as we could handle. But, as I reflect upon the exemplary life that my Aunt led, I now know that it is about responsibility. God expects us to do good things in this world, and those of us who hear His call are charged to rise up.
No one “rose up” better than my Auntie Joan. As we say our goodbyes to her in the coming days, I feel all the more committed to living a servant life, as she did. God bless the change makers. God bless Joan Dunlevy.