Joan Fallert, born December 30, 1925 in New York City, died peacefully in her apartment at the Vista Del Monte Retirement Community in Santa Barbara, California, on February 15, 2018.
She was predeceased by beloved husband, Jerome “Jerry” Fallert (married September 7, 1946), parents Frances Wiener and David Wiener, and brother Martin Wiener, among many other relatives and friends.
Joan is survived by daughters Karen Brown (spouse, Guy Wright) and Winifred “Freddie” Holmes (spouse, Richard “Rick” Holmes); nieces Joan Fallert (spouse, Dan Boliaris), and Diane Wiener (partner, Michele “Cheli” Paetow), and other nieces, nephews, and their spouses; grandchildren Freedom Johnson (spouse Kelly Johnson), Elijah Johnson (spouse, Guenevere Johnson), Corinna Fenton (spouse, John Fenton), Merlin Holmes (spouse, Cathleen “Cat” Holmes), Luella Delano (spouse, Matt Delano), Tessa Holmes (engaged to Kevin Bond), Miles Holmes, and Michele Riemer; and great-grandchildren Blaise Johnson, Caelin Tucker, Carys Johnson, Makayla Johnson, Evan Johnson, Shaylan Johnson, Sasha Fenton, Hannah Fenton, Cecelia Fenton, Emma Holmes, Ava Holmes, Harper Holmes, Lucas Delano, Kaia Rae Delano (upcoming), and Tristan Bond.
Joan was a brilliant teacher, acclaimed poet and writer, avid photographer, esteemed actor, and stalwart peace and social justice activist, whose labors of love were influenced by myriad genres and media, especially fiction, poetry, mythology, sculpture, pottery, painting, still photography, music, and film.
Joan was affiliated with numerous civic organizations, including the League of Women Voters. She was committed to creating an ethical world, replete with care, forwarded by lovingkindness, and motivated by egalitarianism.
Joan, with Jerry, and like her democratic socialist parents, was against oppression and violence in all of their forms. Joan remarked that she was “liberal” well before the word’s connotation shifted to a negative hue. In current parlance, she was “progressive.”
Joan had (and has, still) a devoted circle of friends, mentees, and students, many of whom studied with her in long-standing courses she taught. It was Joan’s understanding that literature could impact conversations and, vitally, through insights gleaned in its study, likewise had the potential to influence lasting personal, interpersonal, and societal change, as long as the text under consideration “sustained analysis.”
After decades of teaching literature and writing at Santa Barbara City College’s nationally recognized Adult Education program, she continued teaching similar classes at Vista Del Monte, retiring at age 90.
Below is an excerpted section from Joan’s “Instructor Biography” for Santa Barbara City College:
“Joan Fallert has been a Continuing Ed instructor of literature since 1980, and a writing instructor since 1994. She earned a BA in English literature from Olivet College and an MA from Redlands University, which favored an interdisciplinary approach within her major, and is evident in aspects of her teaching. Fallert’s varied career includes teaching ‘Insights Through Literature,’ for San Bernardino Valley College and writing a monthly column on women’s issues, ‘Equal Partners,’ for the San Bernardino Sun-Telegram. A published poet, she has participated in poetry readings at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and given numerous readings of her own work. Fallert’s literature classes, ‘Enjoying Contemporary Literature’ and ‘Fiction Behind the Film’ rely heavily on discussion of the emotional and sociological landscape in tandem with literary analysis of each book. Her two sections of ‘Recollecting and Writing,’ which are essentially workshops, encourage lively student participation.”
Joan’s buoyant “life of the mind” and wise heart moved uniquely and deftly, as might a heron in sometimes-human form, between the realms of public engagement and family sanctuary, because of her compassion, depth, creativity, and pragmatism.
Among many other things, Joan loved eating good chocolate, drinking not-too-hot coffee, and relishing not-spicy Chinese food. Needless to say, she had an impressive library. While at Vista, and well before then, Joan was surrounded happily by Jerry’s sculpture and decoupage, Karen’s pottery and textile arts, and Freddie’s illustrations.
Theater, recitation, playfulness, wimsy, and faeries both sweet and tricky existed in Joan’s arenas alongside works of loss and longing, among them writing by James Agee, Toni Morrison, and Virginia Woolf. She appreciated succulent plants, birds — especially water birds, ravens, and crows — and cats, physically extant and artful, particularly as illustrated by Edward Gorey and Laurel Burch. The family gives heartfelt thanks to Len Hoffman for taking dear feline, Sweetie. (All are very glad that Sweetie is no longer under the bed.)
Family and friends observed Joan commenting at the end of her long, vivid life that, while she “lived with absence” since Jerry’s death, she was enjoying “just being.”
At her time of death, as in life, Joan was at home with herself; the way she left her embodiment was as she had wished — in quiet dignity, sans measures or suffering.
In keeping with her point-of-view with respect to what she called “cyclical, nonlinear, mythical time,” Joan understood the world and its inhabitants as interconnected, with death being a natural part of life’s course.
Joan was, as her dear friend and spiritual comrade Laura Mancuso noted, “an empowered woman to the last breath.”
A private service was held for available immediate family.
All are welcome to a Celebration of Joan’s life at the Vista Del Monte Retirement Community on March 29, 2018 at 3:30 p.m.
Donations in Joan’s memory can be made to the Assistance League of Santa Barbara, the New York Society for Ethical Culture, or a humane cat rescue organization of one’s choosing.