The Heart of Kernersville

By NJ Clausen

Hello and Happy Spring to all! This month I have the pleasure of introducing you to a woman who has enjoyed a most interesting life… Joan Brown.

Born on Long Island in New York, Joan lived on Long Island until she left for college. Although an only child, Joan had a group of friends who had fun playing ‘restaurant’ with various parts of her grandmother’s mulberry bush and croquet on the big back lawn. Joan and her friends also enjoyed spending time at the beach. When older, they would cross over the bridge to go to different beaches. One of Joan’s favorite memories was of the summer that she was the driver of a big Buick convertible, as her friend who inherited it would not turn 16 until that fall.   

Joan’s all girl high school graduating class had 89 students, and all graduated with one of two degrees…either continuing to college or entering the clerical field. All students also had to take two different exams of four subjects, one for the school and one for the state. Joan did participate in sports and was the pitcher for the softball team as well as a member of the archery team.   

Joan went to college at Kean University, married and was a teacher in New Jersey. More than a decade later the family of 5 moved to Florida, where Joan acquired her master’s degree in Special Education from Florida Atlantic University. Joan had become interested in this field when a friend had a special needs child, and she knew that she wanted to be able to help. Joan was a teacher at a private academy in Fort Lauderdale where they had a program for special education. The average class had 12 students, however, if there were less children in the class, the director would bring in students from Central and South America and Joan would teach English as a second language (ESL). 

One of Joan’s most cherished times in teaching occurred when she took a year off from the academy and taught young Native American children (mostly Miccosukee and Seminole) from the Big Cypress Reservation. She shared some of the fun times outside of the classroom, including the little rodeo where 1st and 2nd graders would ride sheep, seeing how long they could stay on!

During school breaks, Joan and her husband would travel to different locations; some very eye-opening. One of those trips was a cruise to Haiti. On the way to Haiti, the tour guides first took their passengers to a different part of the island where they raised racehorses, who were given exceptional care. From there, they would travel on to Haiti, where the residents would come up to the cruise ships in rowboats, holding up infants and hoping for generosity from the travelers. Those who had crafting skills would make little bowls or other pieces of art, put it in a bag with a rope attached and throw it up and over the rail of the cruise ship. The houses were made from flattened cans with the tops and bottoms removed… these were the conditions before the more recent devastating hurricanes and earthquakes.

As a teacher in New Jersey, Joan had joined an association which would allow the teachers to book planes and trains for a reasonable price. A world traveler who would go somewhere every summer, Joan has had the joy of visiting just about every country on her bucket list. One of her more memorable trips included a boat trip from England to Ireland with her husband and fellow teachers. There was an Irish family also on the boat who shared their food and played music on a small pipe. Upon arrival in Ireland, they rented cars. Joan laughed as she described how something was not quite working correctly with the car she was in, and shortly after stopping to determine the problem they were surrounded by over 50 sheep!

Joan moved to Kernersville over 15 years ago after her daughter, who attended a wedding in North Carolina, thought this would be a great place to raise children. She became involved with the Kernersville Historic Society, served on the board for KHS and was docent at the 1875 schoolhouse at the Fourth of July Park when it was open to the public. Joan and Ivey Redmond would tell the history of the schoolhouse. She started volunteering at the hospital with her friend Pat when it first opened, and continued until she broke her ankle. Joan also volunteered at different ministries throughout the week, including calls to shut-ins which she still does every Friday.

Joan is in her 90’s, and emphasizes the need to keep active, as that will keep your brain active and encourages doing ‘something worthwhile’ to help others. She is grateful that God has put her in such a wonderful spot with such great neighbors. Joan enjoys family time and looks forward to those times with great delight. She encourages travel, as you get so much out of it—you meet other people, and it broadens the mind.

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