Joan Van Steenberg Cole
Joan Van Steenberg Cole
  • May 23, 1925 - September 4, 2017
  • Charlottesville, Virginia

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Joan Van Steenberg Cole joined beloved family and friends on the other side on Monday, September 4, 2017. It was cause for great celebration and profound grief. Joan’s capacity for love was boundless. Once described as “the woman with the longest arms in the world,” the enveloping hugs for which she was known spread warmth and joy to all who received them. She will be missed

Joan loved and was loved by far too many to count. Her immediate family included daughter Carol Cole Flanagan, of Silver Spring, Maryland, son Timothy Perry Cole and his partner Missy Stevens, of Washington, Connecticut, son Jeffrey Lawrence Cole, of Charlottesville, Virginia, granddaughter Patricia Amy Flanagan, of Baltimore Maryland and grandsons Benjamin DeCamp Cole of Earlysville, Virginia and Samuel Perry Cole of Greensboro, North Carolina. Though perhaps not related by blood, those whom she embraced as family included daughter Louise Reeve and her husband Ron Reeve, son Thomas Jackson, and daughter Margaret Weeks and Margaret’s daughters Kiley and Macy, for whom she was nothing less than a grandmother. She counted Tim’s step-daughters Lorna Scott, Megan Scott Zaleski and Samantha Scott Gibbs, all of Connecticut, as her own granddaughters and their children, Tyrasia, Kailyn and Calvin, as her great-grandchildren. Joan reserved particular affection for Jeff’s beagle Sparky, who brought great joy to her in her last years. Joan was predeceased by some dear, dear family members. Her grandsons Riley Middleton Cole and Brian Emmett Flanagan passed away far too young, and her beloved son-in-law William Emmett Flanagan left a hole in the family that will never be filled. The strength of her faith enabled her to endure these losses. The fact that her family was spread far and wide in no way diminished the reach or depth of her love.

Joan was born on May 23, 1925, in Brooklyn, New York to Schach August Steenberg and Marion Richardson Steenberg. Her early childhood was spent in Mount Vernon, New York. Joan lost her mother when she was not yet six. After that she and her sister Neal went to live with their mother’s parents, Bishop Ernest Gladstone Richardson and, his wife, Anna Isenberg Richardson, in Philadelphia. Joan and Neal moved to Greenwich, Connecticut to join their father and much beloved step-mother Carol Carmody when Joan was 14.

Joan met Quintin Perry Cole in 1945 when they were both employed at American Cyanamid in Connecticut. They announced their engagement on her 21st birthday in 1946 and were married on his birthday, August 31st, of that year. They had three children, Carol (1947), Tim (1950) and Jeff (1954). Quint’s employment led the family to Hartford, Connecticut, Pittsfield, Massachusetts and Erie, Pennsylvania. In each community, Joan formed strong bonds of friendship with neighbors, fellow parishioners and family members of her children’s playmates.

While in Erie, Joan’s passion for books and reading led her to work as a librarian at the Lawrence Park Library. She especially enjoyed working on the bookmobile where she could get to know patrons and bring them books she thought they would like. She continued working as a librarian at the Pinellas County Library in Florida after Quint retired and he and Joan moved to Clearwater in 1982.

In 1992, Joan and Quint moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, where Jeff and his wife Louise were raising three small children. Joan and Quint took heartily to their roles as grandparents. They adored their grandchildren, who returned the feelings in kind. It was a great blessing for Joan and Quint to be with Ben, Sam and Riley as they aged, and for the boys to have their grandparents so close that they could walk or ride their bikes to their house.

In later years, Joan provided loving care for Quint as his health declined. He passed away in 2005. Joan’s love never faded but she valiantly managed the difficult task of getting by without him. Her faith sustained her.

Joan’s father was born in Denmark and she always treasured her Danish heritage. She was pleased to have established contact with her cousins Kirsten Ball, of Arlington, Virginia and Ingrid Van Steenberg of Rockport, Maine, whose father and Joan’s father were brothers.

For years, Joan devoted her handiwork to knitting dozens of little hats and blankets for premature babies. She also loved to watch the songbirds which came to her feeders. Joan was a beloved resident of Our Lady of Peace for many years and befriended both residents and staff.

When Joan was asked near the end of her life if there was anything for which she wished to be remembered, she said only “kindness.” She will indeed be remembered for that. Joan was concerned for the less fortunate and those suffering from want or need. In lieu of flowers, she would have been moved by donations made in her honor to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank or to a charity of the donor’s own choosing.

A service will be held at the Church of Our Savior on Saturday, October 7, 2017, at 10:00, with a reception to follow.