By Bob Keeler
The history of Pax Christi Long Island—before it even had that name—is so deeply entwined with the life and witness of Joan Wittreich that her death is an especially significant, poignant, and sad moment for our movement. So we are giving this whole issue of Peaceworks to her story.
In my own mind, and in the minds of so many, Joan will always be linked with another towering peace-and-justice figure on Long Island, her friend Joop van der Grinten. As Joop grew older and driving became more of a challenge for him, Joan —or Joan and Chuck, her husband— would often drive him to meetings of the Pax Christi Long Island council and to a wide variety of peacemaking events. Joop died in 2007, at the age of 88. Joan died in August, at 81. Both deaths affected me as deeply as the passing of a close relative. Joop was a father figure to me and to many in the movement, a great white-maned lion of peace. And Joan was like a wise and treasured older sister, a great red-maned lioness of peace.
The simple statement of her dates reads: July 4, 1932-August 17, 2013. But there’s a lot to “the dash between those years,” as Linda Ellis wrote in “The Dash Poem,” a favorite of Colleen Hogan, one of Joan’s six children. The final stanza says:
So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?
“Boy, did she fill up her dash with good stuff,” Colleen said…