A woman who served the community in so many ways

Joan McKibben
Joan McKibben

Mrs Joan McKibben was best known in Portadown as an expert and respected librarian at Killicomaine Junior High School, as a talented contralto in various choirs – and most of all as a devoted mother and family woman.

She died after a long illness, and is survived by her husband John, four children Michael, Laura, Kerry and Lisa, and six grandchildren Sarah, Conor, Andrew, Gavin, Jonny and Robbie.

She had one sister, Laura, who died from cancer when she was in her 40s, and Joan remained very close to Laura’s two children, Jonathan and Helen.

The service of thanksgiving was at Armagh Road Presbyterian Church last Wednesday. With the church minister Rev Christina Bradley out of the country, it was conducted by Rev Tony Davidson (First Armagh) and Rev Simon Hamilton (Cladymore-Tassagh) who was brought up in Ballyhannon, next door neighbours to the McKibbens. He said, “We were blessed with very good neighbours for over 30 years and often the McKibbens and my parents would enjoy meals in each other’s homes.”

Joan Elizabeth (nee McDowell) was born in December 1931 to Samuel and Sarah in the Stranmillis area of Belfast – her father was in the British Army and her mother ran a Post Office.

She was educated at Princess Gardens School (now Hunter House), her first job being secretary with the Esso Petroleum Company in Belfast. She met Portadown businessman John McKibben while on family holiday in Portrush. They were wed in St Bartholomew’s Church of Ireland in Belfast on New Year’s Eve, 1955 and were just four months short of celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary.

Mr Hamilton recalled, “Joan gave up her work to bring up her family, but she later trained as a librarian and worked in Killicomaine for a number of years. She was held in high regard by staff and pupils for her quiet and helpful attitude.”

He added that Joan was a perfectionist for grammar – “the family also speak of her knowledge not just of different birds but also knowing their different songs, of her love of flowers and her ability to refer to them by their Latin names.

“One of their best memories is of their annual holidays to Cranfield. Joan would insist that there were two swims every day in the ‘tropical waters’ (her words) of the Irish Sea!”

Joan was also a gifted contralto, having been a member of Armagh Road church choir for a number of years and of the McCready Singers and of Counterpoint Choir. Armagh Road Church Choir led the singing at the funeral service. She also helped to lead youth organisations of the church and was involved in the work of the talking newspaper for visually impaired people.

Recently, her health began to decline and she spent most of 2015 in hospital or in Rosemount Private Nursing Home. The family is extremely grateful to all the hospital and nursing home staff who cared so well for their mother, and they thank Rev Bradley for her devoted pastoral care and attention. The hymns at thanksgiving service were ‘Be Thou My Vision’ and ‘Dear Lord and Father’. The Bible reading was by granddaughter Sarah McKibben.

Committal was at Roselawn Crematorium and donations in lieu of flowers are to the Southern Area Hospice, c/o Ian Milne Funeral Directors, 59 Seagoe Road, Portadown BT63 5HS.