IN MEMORIAM: Joan Williams Cox

Joan Williams Cox of Easton, MD and Fishers Island, NY, died on Thursday, August 19, 2021 at her home in Londonderry. She was 91.

She was born on October 5, 1929 in New York, New York to John Castree Williams, II and Virginia Cooper Williams.

Affectionately known as Joanie, the seeds of her lifelong quest for learning started in her early years attending The Brearley School in New York City, Miss Fines School in Princeton, NJ, and The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, NY. She received a B.A. in American Literature from Vassar College in 1951 and got her Master’s in education at Columbia University in 1956.

During her senior year of college in 1951, she started dating David B. McCall and married him during her last semester senior year. Together they had six sons and lived in New York City across the street from Central Park. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1973.

With energy to spare while raising 6 sons, Joanie was a devoted volunteer, serving in leadership positions on too many boards to count. She was very proud to serve as the Director of Development at the Natural Resources Defense Council from mid 1975 to 1980.

As a fundraiser at NRDC, she learned to shoot high and stay focused until she got an answer, skills she carried into many of the causes she volunteered for at pivotal times in their development including – but not all – the Academy Art Museum, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Critchlow Adkins Day Care Center, Talbot Hospice, Evergreen Cove, Preservation Maryland, Garden Club of the Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Years after her divorce from David McCall, she met and fell in love with her soon-to-be husband, Paul Cox. Paul made several attempts to woo this sophisticated city girl to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and she finally relented in 1980. Together, they outnumbered the Brady Bunch with Joanie bringing six sons to their marriage and Paul coming to the arrangement with three sons and a daughter.

Joanie embraced them all as one big family, remembering and shopping for everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries. With 15 grandchildren under her wing, she rarely missed a school play, grandparent’s day, graduation or wedding. She tried to attend her grandchildren’s sporting events and games. She believed that major life events in a family were important to show up for.

While she loved traveling around the world with Paul (they visited six continents!), the intrepid duo enjoyed cruising up and down the East Coast aboard their Marine Trader, Delfina. Their direction was determined by the season.

Her favorite place to be was on Fishers Island, a small, little known island in the Long Island Sound. In the early years of their marriage, the couple would fly Paul’s single engine Beechcraft Debonair to Fishers Island from the Easton Airport for weekends, with their dog Corkie and cat Smokey in tow. Knowing she couldn’t fly the plane if something happened to Paul in the air, Joanie learned to fly and got her flying license as a safety precaution that she never had to employ.

At Fishers, her days would begin with commandeering Paul, her sons and their friends into helping her with chores around the house (pruning in the garden, cleaning windows, and painting the cedar shakes to name just a few). Afternoons were spent at the beach, playing tennis, taking nature hikes, birding, reading and catching up with longtime family friends.

Joanie had a lifelong child-like wonder and fascination of the natural world. She liked dark chocolate, entertaining and being entertained, cooking, reading the latest New Yorker magazine and savoring the Sunday New York Times all week long. She set the table for breakfast every evening before going to bed, wore red-framed glasses, loved smoking cigarettes and eating English muffins drenched in butter and Dundee marmalade. She liked skiing in the winter, loved art, going to museums and hearing live music. She was not afraid to wear bright colors and bold costume jewelry.

While living at Londonderry, she made many new friends and enjoyed singing with the community’s vocal group, The Jammers. She also served on the board of directors during her residency there.

She made her bed nearly every day of her life because that’s what her mother told her to do and she continued the tradition long after her mother died. She could be a generous soul to so many but hated paying more than 59 cents for a lemon.

An avid gardener, Joanie was not afraid to roll up her shirt sleeves and get dirt under her fingernails. With red Felcos in hand and a cigarette dangling from her lips, she enjoyed participating in flower shows and would often cut her botanical submissions 5 minutes before heading out the door, creating her own Latin botanical names for them and then winning blue ribbons for her fictitiously named botanicals.

Joanie was a cutthroat competitor on the tennis court and a ruthless backgammon opponent who never gave her grandchildren a break and would bet a nickel per game up to the time of her death. She loved card games, especially Russian Bank.

She was a busy lady who rarely sat idle even when she was sitting still.  At the countless meetings she attended for various volunteer organizations, she could be found knitting her signature “Baby Owl” sweater or knitted caps for her grandchildren and friends, needlepointing belts for her sons and knitting Christmas stockings for the latest additions to her family. She was known for her cat naps during meetings and then waking up with pointed questions, as if she had been paying close attention the whole time.

A force of nature, this brassy, bold, opinionated and liberal woman was not afraid to speak up; many times it was humorous or spot on.

At the time of her death, she was a long-standing member of The Harbor Club, Tred Avon Yacht Club, Garden Club of the Eastern Shore, the League of Women Voters and Hay Harbor Club, on Fishers Island. She was a member of All Faith Chapel in Tunis Mills and served on the vestry there.

Predeceased by her husband, C. Paul Cox II, Joan is survived by her six sons, John P. McCall of New York City and Fishers Island, NY, Peter C. McCall of New York City and Old Lyme, CT; David B. McCall, Jr. of Fishers Island, William D. McCall of Philadelphia, Robert D. McCall of Seattle and Thomas C. McCall of Easton, MD.

She was the proud grandmother of 10 grandchildren, including Katharine M. McCall of Denver, CO; Nicholas McCall of Brooklyn, NY; , Annie S. McCall of New York City, Alex N. McCall of Philadelphia; Peter C. McCall of St. Louis, MO; Cooper McCall of Los Angeles, CA; James McCall of Fishers Island, NY, Henry D.B. McCall of Bedford, NY; Max McCall of Easton, MD; and Molly Williams McCall of Easton, MD.

In addition, she is survived by four step-children, David Cox of Easton, MD, C. Paul Cox, III of Easton, MD, Elizabeth S. Cox of Love Point, MD and John S. Cox of Easton, MD. Also, she is survived by five step-grandchildren including Sewall Cox of St. Michaels, MD; Jeffrey Cox of Easton, MD; Kimberly Cox of Easton, MD; Christopher Cox of Luxembourg and Henley Cox of New York, NY.

She is also survived by four great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held on Friday, September 24 at 2 pm at Christ Church Easton, 111 S. Harrison St., Easton, MD. The burial will be held privately at the Oxford Cemetery in Oxford, MD.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to Talbot County Hospice, 586 Cynwood Dr., Easton, MD 21601 or The Academy Art Museum, 106 South Street, Easton, MD 21601.

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