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Home » Campus News Latest » Obituaries » Joan K. Oltman ’54

Joan Arden Klein Oltman was born on August 12, 1931 in Brooklyn, New York, the first child of Edith and Samuel Klein, and died December 8, 2019.

She grew up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn and then in Oceanside, Long Island, where she graduated from high school at the age of sixteen.

Joan attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where she met Jim Oltman ’54 in 1949. Joan and Jim married in 1951, when Joan was 19. They studied abroad at the London School of Economics.

Joan graduated from Antioch with a BA in Social Work, and she worked as a social worker in New York until she joined Jim in the Panama Canal zone, where he was stationed in the army after college. Jim then went to Harvard Law School and they lived for in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Jonathan and Cathy Megan were born. They moved to New York when Jim finished law school, living first with Joan’s parents on Long Island, and then in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, where Ellen was born.

Joan stayed home as a young mother and then returned to graduate school, getting a master’s degree, and began classroom teaching in Greenburgh, New York. She taught second and third grade for many years at Highview School in Hartsdale, New York, and later served as elementary level mathematics specialist for the Greenburgh Central school district.

Joan and Jim were involved in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam war, and through war moratorium actions became involved in Quakerism, joining Scarsdale Monthly Meeting, and later Purchase Monthly Meeting.

Joan retired from classroom teaching in the early 1980s but taught graduate courses, wrote, edited and published a number of elementary mathematics teaching guides, and spent the latter decades of her life developing her lifelong passion for creative writing, publishing her novel, Chapel of Bones in 2016.

Joan was a dedicated member of New York Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends, serving on many committees, the Powell House and Oakwood Friends School boards, and acting as mentor and surrogate parent to many younger friends/Friends and family members.

Joan and Jim helped to conceptualize and found the continuing care retirement community, Kendal on Hudson, in Sleepy Hollow, New York, moving in as some of the first residents in 2005. Joan served as one of the first presidents of the Kendal residents’ council, and was the long-time editor of the Kendal View.

Jim had served on the Board of Formation for Kendal, and Joan liked to say, “he just built Kendal; I run the place.”

Joan was a brilliant, warm, gracious, funny, sarcastic, creative, and insightful woman, always interested in others and the world, well-read and well-informed, always growing and learning. She traveled much of the world with Jim.

Surrogate daughter and former student Paula McFarlane called Joan “my personal human Google.”

Joan was preceded in death by her beloved Jim in 2015 after 64 years of marriage. She is survived by brother Jeffrey Klein and sister-in-law Jill Varricchio, sister-in-law Sidney Oltman Ferrell, son Jonathan Oltman and daughter-in-law Cathy Bertinuson, daughter Cathy Megan Oltman and son-in-law Daniel Porcher, daughter Ellen Oltman Kellner and son-in-law Chuck Kellner, grandchildren Anna and Noah Oltman, Rachel and Adam Porcher, and Andrew and Rob Kellner, as well as numerous dear nieces, nephews, and cousins, and scores of loving friends.

She died peacefully and on her own terms. Friends are welcome to make donations in Joan’s memory to the American Friends Service Committee or to Powell House Conference and Retreat Center of New York Yearly Meeting.