Joan Williams Graham, 93, former headmistress at The Williams School

Joan Williams Graham
Joan Williams Graham

Joan Williams Graham, 93, died Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, in Virginia Beach, surrounded by her children and friends.

Born in Norfolk, she was the daughter of the late John Newton Williams and Virginia Garrison Williams, who founded the (Garrison) Williams School, Norfolk in 1927.

Joan was also preceded in death by her husband of 54 years, Thorburn McIntosh Graham; and her sister, Virginia Williams Burton of Atlanta.

Joan graduated from Chatham Hall School and earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from the College of William & Mary. She began her career as a first grade teacher at The (Garrison) Williams School, where she later served as assistant head. Upon her mother’s retirement, Joan became the headmistress, serving from 1969 to 1981. The Williams School was the great legacy she left to the community, and she was beloved by generations of students, teachers and her successors, Frederick Walker, Barton Baldwin, Jay Mahoney, Michael Spencer and Margaret Moore.

Through the years, she was active in the Junior League of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Colonial Dames, Westover Garden Club, the Monday Club and several bridge groups.

World War II was going on when Joan made her debut with the Norfolk German Club in the Monticello Hotel in Norfolk. She married LT (jg) Thorburn McIntosh Graham at Christ and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Sept. 30, 1950 and they made their home in the West Ghent section of Norfolk before eventually moving to Suffolk.

Joan is survived by a daughter, Virginia Williams Graham; son, Peter McIntosh Graham; nephew, Jay Burton, and his wife, Rosemary, and their daughter, Garrison, and Rosemary’s daughter, Ashley Scott Armstrong. Joan is also survived by her nephew, Dal Burton, and his wife, Adelaide, and children Dal, Adelaide, Hilliard and James. She is further survived by her niece, Caroline Payne Read and goddaughters, Mary Dashiell and Mary Lyman Jackson.

A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 11, at Christ and St. Luke’s Church, 560 West Olney Road, Norfolk. The Rev. Canon Win Lewis, Rector will officiate assisted by the Rev. Jess Stribling and the Rev. Frances Dille. Burial will take place immediately following services in the columbarium of the church. A reception will follow in the Anderson Bayview Room of Westminster Canterbury, 3100 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, where Joan resided.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Williams School, 419 Colonial Ave., Norfolk, VA 23507; or Christ and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

Share online condolences with the family at H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts.

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