Joan Rahn Hopper passed away peacefully with her daughter Kristen Hopper by her side in Newport Hospital on Tuesday August 24th, 2021. Joan Freda Rahn was born on Mother’s Day May 12, 1929, in Albany, New York to Philip Stanley Rahn and Freda Reichardt Rahn. Her Depression Era childhood was spent in Whitesboro New York, and during the summers on a mountainside in Floyd, N.Y. In her teen years she had a passion for music and played saxophone in her high school band.
Joan graduated from Springfield Hospital School of Nursing in Massachusetts during June 1952. During her time at Springfield Hospital, she met her future husband Charles (Chuck) Lyon Hopper who was an orderly. They fell in love, married in September 1952, and moved to New Haven, Connecticut where Chuck began attending Yale Medical School. Joan became a registered nurse at Grace New Haven Hospital where, among other duties, she taught natural childbirth. Joan had her first child, Philip, in 1956 after Chuck graduated from medical school. During Chuck’s surgical residency at Hartford Hospital the young family lived on the Rahn farm in West Suffield, Connecticut. The Hopper family grew with the birth of Margaret (Meg) in 1958, Kristen in 1962 and Amy in 1965. In July 1964 the Hoppers moved to Middletown, Rhode Island when Chuck joined Dr. James Callahan’s medical practice in Newport.
Gardening was one of the great loves of Joan’s life. On the family farm she tended an herb garden. After moving to Rhode Island, it took only a few years for the house at Circle Drive to be surrounded by flower beds, fruit trees and a vegetable garden. The tulips in early spring were her pride and joy. The appearance and smell of her gardens are distinctive childhood memories. In 1976 the family moved to Pelham Street in Newport where Chuck continued his practice in a home office and Joan resumed her nursing career to aid him. In their Pelham Street home, the flower gardens again thrived and bloomed. At Christmastime the main staircase banister was woven with evergreens and a candle was in every window. After Chuck retired, he and Joan moved to James Court in Portsmouth where the pattern of growing beautiful things continued, apple trees, climbing peas, raspberries, tomatoes and more grew in abundance. Joan and Chuck loved to cook for friends and family, and Joan especially enjoyed baking. One of the family rituals was dropping off winter holiday treats for extended friends and family.
Joan was always community minded. She knit countless sweaters, hats, and mittens for the United Congregational Church Bazar, as well as anyone she knew who’d had a baby and of course the family always had fabulous homemade sweaters. There was an unfinished child’s mitten in her knitting bag. For many years she was involved in helping raise money for the Newport Hospital through the Newport Hospital Auxiliary. During her time on Pelham Street, she sat on the board at the Swinburne School of Household Arts. Chuck died in 2007.
After a period of mourning Joan, together with some of her dear friends started a social group for widows and widowers they called the WOWS. During the WOWS social outings Joan developed a special companionship with William (Bill) Mershon. To say her children were relieved and happy about this would be a vast understatement. Bill and Joan were a great comfort to each other until his death in 2017. After Bill passed away Joan moved to St. Claire’s independent living facility in Newport and eventually to John Clarke and Blenheim in Middletown. She loved people until the end. We, her family of course but also her long-time friends, are all part of Joan’s garden.
She is survived by her children Philip Hopper and his wife Jean Wagner of Brooklyn, NY, Margaret Sitarik of Longmont, CO, Kristen Hopper and her husband Steve Rogers of Berkeley, CA, Amy Hopper and her husband William Oatway of Jamestown, RI, her grandchildren Ian Sitarik of State College, PA, and Hazel Hopper of Berkeley, CA, her sister Phyllis Vineyard of Chestnut Hill, MA and her many, friends on Aquidneck Island and beyond.
A memorial service and celebration of Joan’s life will be held on Saturday, October 16 at 2:00 PM in the Memorial Funeral Home located at 375 Broadway in Newport, RI.