Alice Joan (JoAnn) Wright Mead, 87, of Bella Vista, Arkansas passed away with family at her side on Sunday, March 8, 2020. She was born December 3, 1932 in O’Neal, Arkansas to Orvey Stewart Wright and Audie Mae Thompson Wright. She grew up in Batesville, AR, lived in Little Rock for two years and graduated from Batesville High School. In 1948, she was the White River Carnival Bathing Beauty Hostess.
Joan married Paul Kendall Mead on July 14, 1950, and became a military wife while he served in Army Intelligence in Baltimore and St. Louis. The couple moved to Fayetteville, AR while Paul completed bachelors and masters degrees. They moved to Baron, OK where he was superintendent of the OSU Field Station and then to Stilwell, OK in 1959, when Paul went to work for Stilwell Canning Company.
In Stilwell, the Mead family were members of the First Baptist Church, where Joan volunteered in the nursery and taught Vacation Bible School. She was a Girl Scout Leader, and an always devoted, engaged mom in her children’s activities. In 1965, she turned her determined spirit to getting her college degree and received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from Northeastern State College (University) four years later with a 4.0 grade average. She taught English at Stilwell High School where she sponsored the school play and the FTA Club. She also worked for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
As Paul moved up to President and then Chairman of Stilwell Foods, (now part of Flowers Foods), Joan stepped into the role of supporting his team and their wives and families as well. They traveled widely in the US and in 1995, they retired to Bella Vista, AR. They loved Bella Vista and quickly made many friends. They were members of the Community Church.
She was truly surprised she ‘lived to be so old’ and was fiercely independent and completely in charge until she went to be with her beloved son, Doug, husband Paul, siblings Dorothy, Mary Sue and Orvey and her dear niece, Gayle.
She was a true Southern matriarch, beautiful, intelligent, charming and engaging, strong in her beliefs, protective of her family and those she loved, clear about how things should work and also when they didn’t. She was an excellent bridge player, a lovely hostess and a voracious reader. She loved gardening, watching the birds on the feeders in her yard and her canine children, Olive and Gracie. She was known for regaling any audience with her witty stories. She was in the process of mastering her Apple watch so she could make phone calls from her wrist.
She leaves behind to cherish her gifts and memories, daughters; Lynn Cowan of Fayetteville, AR and Katy (Carl) May of Ft. Gibson, OK; daughter-in-law, Tracy Mead of Lawrenceville, GA; granddaughters, Staci May of Ft. Gibson, OK, Kimberly Martinez (Rodger) of Ft. Gibson, OK, Lauren Mead of Decatur, GA and Taylor Mead of Atlanta, GA; great-grandsons, Tyler Lavigne, Cameron Morales and Jase Martinez all of Ft. Gibson; her cherished ‘other daughter’, Renae Yost; many adoring nieces and nephews and many lovely and caring friends.
Memorial services will be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Bella Vista Public Library, 11 Dickens Pl. Bella Vista, AR 72714 or Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter, 14100 Vaughn Road, Bentonville, AR 72713.
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