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Joanne M. Nolan

March 6, 1930 ~ February 2, 2021 (age 90)


Joanne Miriam Nolan
March 6, 1930 - February 2, 2021

Joanne Miriam (Burnham) Nolan, of Quincy, MA, wife of the late Wilfred A. Nolan, passed away peacefully on February 2, 2021 at the young age of 90.

Joanne was born in Hartford, CT on March 6, 1930 to the late Donald Crampton Burnham and Helen Miriam (Pickering) Burnham.  She was the older sister to the late Sanford (Sandy) Adams Burnham.  She was most affectionately known by her family as “Joie.”  Her early years on Pleasant Street in Windsor, CT were shared with her family, neighbors, friends  and cousins and her very best friend the late Joyce (Greene) Wilson.  Her family spent summers at a family cottage lovingly named the “Dinghy” on the shores of Groton Long Point where her love for the beach and for ocean activities was established.  Swimming became a passion that she later passed along to her children with swimming lessons at Wollaston Beach and the YMCA in Quincy, MA.  On a hot summer day you might have seen her take a dip in your pool on her way home from work!

Seafood was also a favorite and feasting on clams, oysters, scallops, shrimp, crabs and all types of fish were common fare.  Her most favorite treat was a boiled lobster dinner with farm fresh corn-on-cob steamed to perfection, enjoyed at home with family and friends or a lobster roll out at lunch.  It all tasted better with strawberry shortcake or Grandma’s homemade hot fudge sauce over Brigham’s vanilla ice cream.

Having the best of both worlds, beach and mountains, her family later spent vacations in Vermont at various cabins her father purchased until finally building a cabin in Newfane that later became her Shangri-La during many seasons.  Her love of nature and the outdoors was another passion passed on to her children and grandchildren.


Joanne attended public schools in Windsor and graduated from John Fitch High School in 1948.  Her classmates voted her “Best Personality.”  She moved up to Boston and attended Tufts University (Jackson) and received a Bachelor of Science degree and continued her studies at the Boston School for Occupational Therapy (BSOT), graduating as an Occupational Therapist in 1953.  She worked as an OT after college and returned years later (after raising her family) to work with Easter Seals and the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA).

During her time in Boston she met her future husband, the late Wilfred “Fred” Arthur Nolan, while working at a summer camp for special needs children.  They were married on July 31, 1954 in Windsor, CT on what she always referred to as the hottest day of her life!  Joanne and Fred enjoyed 37 years of marriage in Quincy, MA raising five children before her beloved Fred passed away in 1991.

Joanne joined the United Methodist Church in Wollaston and was an active member with her church family and her Sigma Phi Women’s Group for over 65 years.  She was part of the Altar Guild and her faithful Sigma Phi friends worked tirelessly on fundraising events including Christmas bazaars, various fairs, silent auctions, social events, and endless bake sales.  Very often homemade cookies, coffee cakes, cupcakes, brownies and hermits were left to cool just long enough before being whisked away with a scolding of, “it’s for the church!”  There was always something left behind for dessert.  Crafting projects were frequently underway for church and local charities including knitting prayer shawls and hats for preemies, Project Linus quilts, seasonal wreaths, ornaments and baskets for visiting shut-ins.  She practiced volunteerism at church and in her local community, including preparing and serving meals at Father Bill’s Place.

Homelife with five children was a busy time but she made quick friends and allies with her neighbors on Standish Avenue and then Monroe Road, and remained friends with them throughout her life.  Her talents as a seamstress were apparent with homemade dresses for herself and her daughter’s special occasions.  A talent happily passed on to all her children and lessons on the sewing machine were not just for girls only.  Many years later she was asked how she did it with five kids and her response was, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!”, a motto she lived by as a mother.  Whether on skates, on a sled, or building a snowman in winter, or on bike rides, hikes, and beach combing in the summer,  she was part of the gang!  Being an early riser, she would sometimes knock at your bedroom door very early in the morning to watch the sunrise or take a bike ride along the beach.  She was a den mother for Cub Scouts and a fearless Girl Scout leader introducing many girls to scouting including cooking and camping out.   

Her dining room table was always set for Sunday Dinner after church and holidays with fine china and silver flatware.  It was a sacred space with faith, family and friends feasting on the fruits of her labors beginning with a prayer of grace.  There was always enough room for additional family, friends from church, elderly neighbors, Dad’s Navy buddy and his family, exchange students or couples visiting  from foreign countries.  Chairs were added to accommodate a growing family of daughter-in-law, sons-in-law and then grandchildren.  Less formal meals were cooked outside with Fred at the grill and Joanne making the side dishes.  Nothing tasted better than one of her picnics packed for road trips or enjoyed at Castle Island in Boston, Townshend Dam in Vermont, or the beach or a lake.

Joanne was a cheerful person with a wonderful sense of humor.  She never took herself too seriously and was always fun to be with.  Perhaps the reason she loved dressing up on Halloween!  She never considered herself old and loved spending time with her children and grandchildren who she fondly referred to as her young people.  She would happily tell you her greatest accomplishment was raising her family and she delighted in her grandchildren’s amazing personalities, talents and achievements while cheering them on at sporting events, attending recitals and school events or admiring their artwork, handiwork or baking.  She felt her life was a journey and those who joined her were her companions.  Her companions included many extended family members and friends and her presence and unconditional love will be greatly missed by all who knew her.

She had a wanderlust in her soul which began after college with a cross country driving adventure with her girlfriends.  Vacations with her young family included more local trips to Cape Cod, rented cottages on the Connecticut shore, trips to New York, Vermont  and Connecticut to visit cousins and camping trips in New Hampshire and other New England states.  Her 25th Wedding Anniversary was spent onboard the Victory Chimes windjammer for a cruise off the Maine coast.  She got bit by the travel bug on her trip to Ireland with Fred and Quincy friends.  They enjoyed other trips to Florida and visits to Oberammergau Passion Play, Germany, Switzerland and Austria.  A trip to Puerto Rico, others to Bermuda and a chartered Caribbean cruise brought home many funny tales of adventure.  Her travels continued after Fred’s passing and included trips to Scotland, Jane Austen Tour in England, Italy, France, Tulip Festival in the Netherlands, Nova Scotia and other parts of Canada on a train trip to the Pacific Northwest.  Domestically she visited her children from Massachusetts to Virginia, California, North Carolina including the Outer Banks and Oregon to visit her life long friend Joyce.

In her later years, she enjoyed being an armchair traveler listening to tales of travel from her children and grandchildren.  Her postcard collection contained cards from far flung places such as Thailand and Cambodia, France, England, Italy, Outer Banks, various Caribbean Islands, Vermont, Utah, Colorado, Texas and Washington DC.

She was a lifelong learner whether taking professional courses for her OT license or courses offered in adult education in writing or painting, yoga, exercise, meditation, stained glass, Shibori tie dye technique or bible study.  She enjoyed visiting various museums including the MFA in Boston and loved going to the theater, opera, symphony, Boston Pops or Boston Ballet and also enjoyed watching performances on public television. She was an ardent football fan cheering on the New England Patriots and Tom Brady.  She was an avid reader and loved history, animal stories, a good mystery, novel or biography.  Sometimes the quiet observer, she loved to disappear into the storyline of a good book.  Retaining authors, story plot and characters ready to share if you wanted to listen to a tale.  She maintained beautiful penmanship and her letters and inspirational quotes, many still preserved today, give testimony to her ministry of writing thoughtful reflections of joy and encouragement to family and friends. 

Joanne is survived by her five devoted children and their spouses, Stephen Nolan and his wife Barbara of Grafton, VT, Robert Nolan of Raleigh, NC, Kathleen Nolan and her husband Paul Fuss of Weymouth, MA, Janet Gast and her husband Richard of Holly Springs, NC and Suzanne Nolan and her fiancé Lawrence Mahoney of Kingston, MA; and her amazing granddaughters, Victoria Nolan, Rosemary Nolan, Katelyn LIttle (and husband Stephen), Karli Woollens (and husband Lyman), Kelsey Gast, Amelia Fuss, Ariana Bruno and Aliyah Bruno and her loving grandson, Patrick Fuss.  She is also survived by her cousins Bruce Burnham, Bettie Pietsche and Janice Lawlor and her sisters-in-law Roberta Wall and Joan Burnham and many adoring nieces and nephews. 

During the pandemic there will be a Virtual Remembrance Ceremony shared in the near future.  Burial will be private later this year at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne where Joanne will be laid to rest with her beloved Fred.

In lieu of flowers, kindly consider donating to one of Joanne’s favorite charities, Quincy Community United Methodist Church, 40 Beale St., Wollaston, MA 02170, Interfaith Social Services, 105 Adams St., Quincy, MA 02169,  Father Bill’s & MainSpring, 430 Belmont St., Brockton, MA 02301,  or volunteer and/or donate to a local children’s, civic or environmental organization.  And Support the Arts.


You can still show your support by sending flowers directly to the family, or by planting a memorial tree in the memory of Joanne M. Nolan
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