Joan Arden Klein Oltman

OltmanJoan Arden Klein Oltman, 90, on December 8, 2019, peacefully, surrounded by family while in hospice care at Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. Joan was born August 12, 1931, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the eldest of three children of Edith and Samuel Klein. Joan’s parents were politically active and ethnically Jewish. Joan described herself as their “red diaper baby.” She grew up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and Oceanside, Long Island, where she graduated from high school at age 16.

Joan attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where she met Jim Oltman in 1949. The couple married in 1951. They studied abroad together at the London School of Economics. Upon their return, Joan graduated from Antioch with a bachelor’s in social work. She was employed as a social worker in New York City until she joined Jim in the Panama Canal Zone, where he was stationed by the army. After his discharge, Jim attended Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass., where Joan and Jim’s first two children, Jonathan and Cathy Megan, were born. Following Jim’s graduation, the family lived with Joan’s parents in Lynbrook, N.Y., for 18 months, then moved to Brooklyn, where their third child, Ellen, was born.

Joan remained at home as the mother of young children. In 1964, she enrolled at Yeshiva University and earned her master’s in education. Joan taught second and third grade at Highview School in Hartsdale, N.Y., and later was an elementary-level mathematics specialist for the Greenburgh Central school district. Upon retiring from the classroom, Joan taught graduate courses at Yeshiva University and the College of New Rochelle and wrote, edited, and published a number of elementary mathematics teaching guides. Her later decades of life were dedicated to her lifelong passion for creative writing. She eventually self-published A Chapel of Bones, a mystery novel set in medieval England.

Joan and Jim were active in the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War, and became involved with Quakerism. They joined Scarsdale (N.Y.) Meeting, and in the mid 1980s moved their membership to Purchase Meeting in West Harrison, N.Y. Joan served on numerous committees. Friends say that her vocal ministry was always deep and grounded in her lived experiences. Their spiritual life was deepened by Joan and Jim’s involvement in 12-step programs. Their openness to discussing life’s struggles was inspirational to others.

Joan was a dedicated participant in the work of New York Yearly Meeting, serving on many committees, as well as on the Powell House and Oakwood School boards. Joan and Jim helped to found the continuing care retirement community Kendal on Hudson in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. They were among the first residents when they moved there in 2005. Joan served as one of the first presidents of the residents’ council, and was the longtime editor of Kendal View. Although Jim had served on Kendal’s Board of Directors during the community’s formation, Joan used to say, “He just built Kendal, but I run the place.”

Friends say that Joan was intelligent, warm, funny, sarcastic, creative, and insightful. She was well traveled and well read. Paula McFarlane, her former student and close friend, called Joan “my personal human Google.” Joan derived her deepest pride and greatest pleasure from her three children and six grandchildren.

Joan was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Jim Oltman, in 2015 after 64 years of marriage. She is survived by three children, Cathy Megan Oltman (Danies Porcher), Ellen Oltman Kellner (Charles), and Jonathan Oltman (Catherine Bertinuson); six grandchildren; a brother, Jeffrey Klein (Jill Varriccio); and a sister-in-law, Sidney Oltman Ferrell.

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