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Joan Strait Applegate

Born: Wed., Jun. 2, 1926
Died: Fri., May 3, 2019

Memorial Service

3:00 PM Sun., Jun. 02, 2019

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Music by The Piano Brothers

Joan Strait Applegate died on May 3, 2019, at Menno Haven, in Chambersburg. She was born on June 2, 1926, in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John W. Strait and Virginia Waite Strait. Her husband James Applegate died in 1997; she is survived by four children and their spouses, John and Amy (Bloomington, IN), Mary and Charles (Albany, NY), Celia and David (Nashville, TN), and David and Heidi (Washington, DC); nine grandchildren (Virginia, Jesse and Melanie, James and Natalie, Abigail, Celia, Henry, Gillian, Maggie, and Bea); and 3 great grandchildren (Liam, Sonia, and Jacob).

Joan graduated from Huntingdon High School and received a Bachelor of Music from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, and a B.A. in German from the University of Rochester, both in 1947. After earning an M.A. in musicology at Mills College in California, she returned to the Eastman School, for further studies in musicology. She spent the academic year 1954-55 in London on a Fulbright Scholarship. She received her Ph.D. in 1966. In subsequent years, she published a number of articles on musical subjects.

She met Jim Applegate in Rochester, and they married in 1953. They moved to Elmira, NY, in 1956, and began their family there. In 1965, they moved to Chambersburg. There she maintained a private piano studio for students young and old, with annual recitals in her music room. Joan took an active interest in bringing back to life a wonderful old garden at their Philadelphia Avenue home. She led two Girl Scout troops when her daughters were young and took great pleasure in teaching them the campfire songs of her youth and taking them on hikes in the woods.

In 1972, Joan joined the music faculty of Shippensburg University. There she developed a series of music history courses on subjects such as women composers, folk music, music history, and the history of the arts. She organized a flourishing series of noon-time concerts that ran regularly for fifteen years, often performing at the piano, either accompanying a singer or joining instrumentalists in chamber groups. At Shippensburg, as earlier at Mills College and at the Eastman School, she taught piano to college students, many of whom were studying to be teachers.

Joan and Jim attended Trinity Episcopal Church in Chambersburg, then later the St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Shippensburg.  They were both excellent singers and throughout their life together they sang in church choirs. Joan was not just a superb pianist but also an accomplished organist and was often called upon as a substitute. Until her final illness, she remained a stalwart in the St. Andrews choir. She was always aware of contributing to a long tradition of church musicians among her ancestors. 

After her retirement in 1994, she became active in numerous community organizations, serving on the boards of the Chambersburg Council for the Arts, the Franklin County Historical Society, the Gilmore-Hoerner Endowment, and on various arts-related committees at both Wilson College and Shippensburg University. She also played an active role in the annual book sale of the Friends of Legal Services and in the activities of the Audubon Society, including the annual Bird Count. Although she travelled widely and kept diaries recording her observations and experiences in many places, she remained throughout her long life a child of central Pennsylvania. She was devoted to the history and culture of Franklin County, where she lived most of her life and raised her children, and to Huntingdon County, where she was born and raised.

For the last 14 years, Joan lived at Menno Haven’s Northfield community, where she continued her many community activities and welcomed family and friends. For several years before she moved there, she had been a volunteer, playing the piano and leading sing-alongs for the residents, especially those suffering from dementia. She began these sing-alongs when her husband Jim was living in the dementia unit, and she would always pass out the lyrics to beloved folk and popular songs of the past so that everyone could participate. She continued this musical activity after Jim’s death, also playing for chapel services. Music-making was at the very core of her life, and she shared her gifts with all. In her final months and days, she received wonderful care from the Menno Haven staff and volunteers.

A memorial service for Joan will be held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Shippensburg on June 2, 2019, at 3:00 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Franklin County Friends of Legal Services, to the Franklin County Historical Society, or to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.




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