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Joan Coffin

December 1, 1932 ~ February 24, 2018

Service: April 14, 2018 1:00 PM
   Location: St. James Episcopal Church

Joan Anne (McDonough) Coffin peacefully passed away February 24, 2018 in Belgrade, Montana with her family by her side, after a long illness from cancer.

Joan was born in Orange, New Jersey on December 1, 1932. The daughter of Elsie Jane (Sindt) McDonough and Walter McDonough, she grew up in Washington, New Jersey on a beautiful farm. She enjoyed spending weekends in Bergenfield, New Jersey with her extended (Demarest) family. Her farm family heritage and love of learning led a scholarship to attend Douglas College (of Rutgers University) for agricultural science in 1952. She married William Sturgis Coffin of Glen Ridge, New Jersey in 1953 and they had five children. The family relocated several times, finally settling in Cazenovia, NY in 1965. Joan and William divorced in 1974.

After teaching for a short time in Cazenovia High School, Joan discovered her love of teaching and returned to SUNY Cortland College to earn a teaching certificate and Master’s Degree in Education in 1969. She taught science in North Syracuse Schools until her retirement in 1987. She was a dedicated teacher and advocate of public education throughout her life. She was very active and held leadership positions in the NY State United Teachers (NYSUT) throughout her career.

Joan met Howard Bethel of Skaneateles in 1982. They were completely dedicated to one another thereafter, sharing their love for the outdoors. Joan and Howard, as life and business partners, founded and operated Hawkridge Outfitters and Rodbuilders. They first travelled between Syracuse and Yellowstone National Park, introducing upstate New Yorkers to the marvelous experience of camping and fishing in America’s first national park. After Joan and Howard retired from teaching, they moved to Bozeman, MT in 1989. From their wilderness home, they ran their outfitting business and spent many days hiking, camping and travelling in the great west. They provided their children and grandchildren with countless, wonderful memories from visiting and recreating in Montana.

Joan’s retirement did not end her public service. She was a dedicated Christian and long serving member of the Episcopal church, particularly St. James Church in Bozeman. She served on the vestry, conducted lay services for the elderly, and helped raise funds for the poor and needy. During her retirement, Joan served on and Chaired the Montana PBS Board of directors. Her family and friends always admired Joan’s commitments to social justice and equality. Her children and grandchildren learned many of those lessons and carry on her legacy.

She is preceded in death by her father and mother; her sister, Lois Kice; her brother, Walter McDonough; and her step-daughter, Marty Mercado.

Joan is survived by her husband, Howard Bethel and five children, William Jr., Walter Benjamin, Laura Anne Bauer (Richard), Douglas (Diana Lurie), and Thomas Edward.  Surviving step-children include Wendy Gross, Kristin Waterstripe, and Jay Bethel.  She was loved by her many grandchildren, Christopher and Amanda Bauer; Daniel, Jacquelyn, and Lindsey Coffin; and Alexandra, Emily, and Amy Coffin.  Joan was blessed with 14 great-grandchildren.  She will be missed by her numerous nieces and nephews.

Memorials in lieu of flowers, may be directed to your local Public Broadcasting Service, Montana PBS, St. James Church (Bozeman), or Eagle Mount Bozeman.

A Memorial Service will be held Saturday, April 14th at 1 p.m., at St. James Episcopal Church.

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