Joanne Smith (Casey)

Aug. 22, 1938 — Aug. 26, 2020

Joanne Smith (Casey) died Wednesday morning Aug. 26, 2020, after a seven-year battle with dementia.

She was born Aug. 22, 1938, in Dowagiac, to M. Dick and Alice Casey.

She graduated with honors from Michigan State University in 1960 and was elected to circle honorary. She received a master’s degree from State in art and completed additional studies at Interlochen and the University of California-Berkley.

In 1964, after two years teaching in Bay City, Joanne moved to Kalamazoo and taught art to elementary school students for the next 35 years.

In 1970, Joanne married James W. Smith, and they welcomed daughter, Sarah, a year later. Joanne brought a quiet passion to everything she did, including sharing her love of art with youngsters. Her devotion to art did not stop when the school day ended. She taught art in vacation bible school programs and often took time to work with aspiring artists, teachers and neighborhood kids who would drop in for an informal lesson. She was a proud member of the MEA union and an advocate for public schools.

In 1976, to commemorate the bicentennial, her students at Indian Prairie School created a calendar with a patriotic theme for each month. This was featured in a Gazette article. Along with teaching, she stayed busy with her own art including painting, drawing, print making, calligraphy, crafts and fiber arts. She was a member of the Weavers and Embroiders Guilds. An excellent seamstress, she made many of her and her family’s clothes. She designed and printed holiday cards. After her retirement in 1999, Joanne met regularly with a group of retired KPS art teachers (the RATS).

For a number of years, she helped organize and curated an annual exhibit at the Kalamazoo law firm of Dietrich, Smith, Howard and VanderRoest that showcased local artists and private art collections. These exhibits included up to 140 works and hosted hundreds of visitors.

In addition to art related pursuits, she played bridge with the same group of women for more than 40 years. She and Jim traveled extensively in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

She was a devoted daughter and friend to many in Cass County, Bay City, Chicagoland and Kalamazoo.

An avid sports fan, she rooted for her Spartans and the Detroit teams.

In 2017, Joanne moved to The Gardens assisted living facility at The Fountains at Bronson Place.

In 2019, The Fountains hosted an exhibition featuring several of her paintings, drawings, prints, weaving and needlework plus selected pieces by other artists from her and Jim’s collection.

Joanne is survived by her husband, Jim; daughter, Sarah; brother, Richard Casey, and wife, Kathy; nephew, Tom Casey, and wife, Paula; brother-in-law, Tom Smith, and his wife, Jane; nieces, Jamie Coffelt and Julie Dandaneau; and seven grand-nieces and nephews.

Her family and friends thank the staff of The Gardens at The Fountains at Bronson Place for the wonderful care she received in her final years.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to the Kalamazoo Institute of Art School Scholarship Fund in her memory.

A celebration of Joanne’s life will take place at a later date. Cremation has taken place. Please visit Joanne’s personalized webpage for online guestbook or to leave a condolence. Arrangements were made by the Langeland Family Funeral Homes Burial and Cremation Services, 622 S Burdick St., Kalamazoo. langelands.com.

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