Joan Mary (Knapp) SpakowskiJuly 6, 1926 ~ December 8, 2017 (age 91)
Joan M. Spakowski, 91, longtime educator. Joan M. Spakowski died peacefully in Cincinnati, OH on December 8, 2017. Joan was an elementary and middle school teacher who instilled in her students a love of science and ecology, as well as good grammar. She worked with the speech team at St. Richard’s School in North Olmsted, OH, ensuring that those who worked hard excelled. As a result, her students were consistent winners, and the school took top honors. Joan’s first love, however, was science. She shared her passion for botany with her students and her family. Her daughters remember she knew the proper name of every plant and flower she passed, even the rarer species. Joan established the school science fair in which 300 students participated annually. Many of her students went on to participate and win in the NE Ohio Science Fair, and Joan became a consultant to other schools looking to duplicate her success. As awareness of environmental concerns grew, Joan expanded that love to the field of ecology. She co-authored an elementary school environmental science curriculum promoted by the Ohio Department of Education, and used on the national level. In the early 1970’s, she piloted an Environmental Problems program, encouraging her students to interview their neighbors and gather information about environmental concerns. The resulting information gained regional recognition for both Joan and her students. After leaving her classroom, Joan’s students stayed in touch with her. She taught the children and grandchildren of some of her earliest students, and they became a second family to her. After retiring, Joan worked with adults in the Adult Literacy Program. She was thrilled when these students could read and write, and graduated from the program. Joan continued learning all her life, whether taking art classes at Baldwin Wallace College, workshops in education, or reading extensively across many genres. She passed on to her daughters a solid work ethic, the knowledge that women have a place in the workforce, a fabulous fashion sense, and a love of flowers, gardening, decorating, and reading. Joan was a devout Catholic and remained firm in her love of God. She recently displayed a quote from Erma Bomback, which said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life I would hope that I would not have a single drop of talent left, and I could say…I used everything you gave me.” She would be pleased to know this came true. Born Joan Mary Knapp in Simpson, PA in 1926, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from Mercyhurst College in PA. Joan met Adolph Spakowski, the love of her life, and they married in 1949. They moved to North Olmsted, OH where Adolph worked for NASA as a research chemist until his passing in 1972. Joan’s career as an educator spanned 40+ years as she worked and raised her daughters. Joan is survived by her children: Barbara Jean Slatt (Stephen) of Phoenix, AZ; Mary Beth Courtright (Anson) of Pembroke, MA; and Mary Kay Delgado of Cincinnati, OH; her four grandchildren Aaron and Madeline Delgado, and Aidan and Michael Courtright; her sister Dolores, and Shirley Clark. She is pre-deceased by her loving husband, Adolph, her siblings Monsignor Steven, Michael, Vincent, Ann, Betty, Olga, and Mary. A funeral mass will be held 10:00am on Wednesday, December 13th at St. Anthony’s Church, 6104 Desmond St., Madisonville, OH. Donations can be made in Joan’s memory to Seeds of Literacy, an award-winning, innovative adult literacy program at www.seedsofliteracy.org. Funeral arrangements are under the care of Naegele Kleb & Ihlendorf Funeral Home of Cincinnati, Ohio.