Joan Ann Wheeler, Associate, was a member of the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York since November 15, 1991 when she took her Associate Commitment until her passing on July 9, 2015.
Joan was born of African and Cherokee heritage in Springfield, IL, and grew up in Detroit. Self-taught on piano, bass, drums, accordion, organ and guitar, she entertained at USO shows and provided vocal backup and instrumental accompaniment for recording artists like the Supremes. Her show business career was interrupted when she attended a boarding school for high school students run by the Good Shepherd sisters. Following graduation the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm hired Joan to work with the elderly in Manhattan. This led to her joining their community in 1963 where she was trained in recreational therapy. After twelve years Joan left religious life, returned to Detroit, and became a security guard.
In 1977 Joan visited friends in New York City, decided to stay, and found a job as a store detective for E.J. Korvettes. This was also the time she returned to being a vocalist and instrumentalist for church functions and corporate companies. Eventually Joan taught art and music at Christ the King School in the Bronx and started a landscaping company for the summer months. It is not surprising that Joan describes her life as wearing many hats. In 1984 she met the Parish Mission Team and ministered with them for eight years. It was a time of deep spiritual growth which gave her strength for the later years of her life. She joined the associates in 1991 to support, share, and live as an example of church as community. Joan wanted to be challenged in the everyday struggle of living the Gospel. Her musical and artistic gifts were readily shared with the associates and sisters. Retirement came in 2008 and unfortunately was immediately followed by the loss of her housing and a period of homelessness in the Bronx which she wrote about in her booklet The Desert God and I. The experience she received while with the Parish Mission Team helped her to keep her focus on graces and strength she was receiving daily during this difficult time. Finally, in December 2009 Joan received word that there was an apartment for her in Thorpe Village in Sparkill. Living closer to Blauvelt, she became more active with the associates and volunteered in the Communications Office. She taught art at Thorpe Senior Center and was an organist at St. John’s Church in Piermont, NY. Joan is survived by a sister and brother. A memorial mass was celebrated at the Motherhouse chapel on August 17.