Joan M. Wendel, 95, a lifelong educator and author

Joan M. Wendel, a cherished mother, grandmother, teacher, and friend, passed away peacefully at the age of 95 on June 10.

Joan M. Wendel
Published June 7, 2024 2:13 PM
3 min read


Joan M. Wendel, a cherished mother, grandmother, teacher, and friend, passed away peacefully at the age of 95 on June 10.

Born on Oct. 30, 1928, in Cleveland, Ohio, Joan was the loving daughter of Marie Wood Mattner and Elmer S. Mattner. Her life was a testament to her kindness, her generosity, and her passion for education, community, and family.

Joan’s formative years were spent in the Pittsburgh area, where in 1946 she graduated from Bellevue High School. It was there that she met her husband, John Means, with whom she welcomed two wonderful daughters, Michelle and Marci. Joan’s intellectual pursuits led her to the University of Pittsburgh, where she joined Kappa Kappa Gamma and graduated with a bachelor’s degree. Joan later completed her master’s degree in education, a field that would become her lifelong vocation and passion.

For more than 40 years, Joan dedicated herself to shaping young minds in the Upper Merion Area School District of Pennsylvania. She taught first, second, and third grade with a rare blend of warmth and rigor, leaving an indelible mark on countless students. Her summers were equally active; she once moved to New York City by herself to work as a tour guide at Rockefeller Center and even enjoyed a stint as a model. While working as a teacher, Joan also single-handedly raised her daughters with an inspiring combination of love and fortitude, ensuring they grew into accomplished women in their own right. In retirement, she continued to support her community, volunteering to bring art education to local schools.

Outside of teaching, Joan’s creative talents also shined brightly as a poet and children’s book author; readers often found her work published in local newspapers. Joan’s intellect and competitive spirit manifested in her love of bridge, playing in tournaments with the Women’s Bridge League of Philadelphia and the Kappa Kappa Gamma alumni association.

Theater, travel, and fashion were among Joan’s many interests. She was a loyal member of the Walnut Street Theater Group, and relished the opportunity to explore new places and experiences. Known for her impeccable style, she especially loved shopping, even more so when it came to spoiling her grandchildren.

Incredibly social, Joan delighted in hosting elaborate birthday parties for her children and elegant dinner parties for friends. As a resident of the Osborn Home in Rye, N.Y., for more than a decade, she continued to pursue these passions. Joan’s love for life was infectious, and she seized every opportunity to be with her cherished grandchildren, whose lives she greatly influenced.

Joan’s legacy is carried on by her devoted daughters and son-in-laws, Michelle and Robert Bridgman of Middleburg, Fla., and Marci and Kevin Lyons of Rye, as well as her adored grandchildren: Courtney, Jack, and Emily Lyons. Joan was preceded in death by her parents, her sister Carol M. Jones, and her husband Karl Wendel. Her vibrant spirit will also be remembered by her extended family, friends, former students, and all who had the pleasure of knowing her.

As we bid farewell to Joan, we celebrate a life beautifully lived and one that was profoundly impactful. Her story does not end with her passing, but continues in the hearts and memories of everyone who loved her. Joanie will be deeply missed, yet her spirit will continue to inspire and guide us all.

The family will receive friends at the Graham Funeral Home on Thursday, June 13, from 4-7 p.m.  A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at the Church of the Resurrection on Friday, June 14, at 9:45 a.m.  Interment to follow at Greenwood Union Cemetery in Rye.

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