Joan Juanine Tomlin, 81, of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, went on to be with her Heavenly Father on September I, 2021. The second eldest daughter of the late Mary Nell Hill and Booker T. Hill's five daughters, she leaves a loving family and loyal group of friends and colleagues forever changed by her never ending devotion, faith in God, and service to her community.
She was born in New York, spending her youth in Harlem. At an early age, Joan exhibited an interest in education, arts, and culture. Her most unforgettable childhood memory was meeting the author Langston Hughes on the steps of his Harlem brownstone. Joan moved to Brooklyn with her family and attended the acclaimed Girl's High School. She enrolled at Brooklyn College where she met her husband of 31 years the late George L. Tomlin.
Joan and George were an aspirational couple who had two daughters Lisa Joan and Kim Danielle. They moved their young family to East Windsor, New Jersey. It was here that Joan's talents as a wife, mother, part-time student, educator, and community advocate soared.
Joan's first job was with Just One Break, an employment agency for veterans and disabled adults. She enrolled at the College of New Jersey to complete both a B.A. in Education and M.A. in Gerontology. For 25+ years she worked for the East Windsor Regional School District at the Ethel McKnight School as an elementary school teacher, advancing to the position of Science Content Specialist; she was the first African-American to hold this position. In this
role, she was responsible for defining and implementing the school's science curriculum priorities earning many honors and accolades.
Towards the end of her teaching career she enjoyed a year-long sabbatical with Princeton University's Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). Joan served as a consultant with PPPL and Trenton Public Schools to improve science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (STEM) education to urban school districts.
After retiring from teaching, Joan was appointed as a Program Manager for the New Jersey Department of Education where she implemented education reforms for New Jersey s Abbott schools in accordance with the state s supreme court ruling asserting that public education in poor communities were unconstitutionally substandard.
Joan was passionate about her church family at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church in Princeton, NJ. A member for over 35 years, Joan served as Deacon, the head of the Usher Board, Moderator of the Presbyterian Women and International Mission & Outreach committee and as a leader for two church mission trips to Ghana. She was an active member of the Building & Grounds Committee and the acclaimed Verse Speaking Choir, her most beloved church activity. As an Advisory Board Member for the Paul Robeson House of Princeton she advocated for bringing diverse artists to the Princeton community which brought
her tremendous joy.
Later in life Joan found love again with the late James Gardner. They enjoyed traveling the world together visiting Asia, Europe, and South America.
Joan is survived by her daughters Lisa and Kim. Her sisters Delores Theobald, Patricia Gourdine, Francine Jackson, and Jacqueline Lenhardt. Her sister-in-law the late Floris Tomlin Rhea. Her brothers-in-laws Simon Jackson, -Alphonso Lenhardt, the late Carlyle Theobald, the late Simon Gourdine, and Ole late Ursel Rhea. She also leaves behind nieces and nephews Gina Hill, Floris Coffey, Gregory Rhea, Tina and Doug Leake, Marc and Nancy Theobald, Robin Lenhardt and Bill Crawley, Tracy and Mark McQuaid, Kimberly Lenhardt, David Gourdine, Peter Gourdine and all of her grand nieces and nephews. She is also survived by her cousins Readie Ray, Charles Shorter, Damion Harriet, Gerald and Karen Delk, and the late Patrica Jackson. Joan has many other relatives, friends, and admirers that are too numerous to count including her most special friend Ellie Gardner and her health caretaker, Mary Omurwa.
Funeral service will be 10am Friday, September 17, 2021 at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, 124 Witherspoon St., Princeton, NJ 08542. Calling hour will be 9am until the time of service. Interment will be at Princeton Memorial Park, Robbinsville, NJ. Arrangements are by Hughes Funeral Home.
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