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Joan Potter Berns

Joan Potter Berns, age 92, died May 16, 2009, at Newton Medical Center.

She was born July 14, 1916, just outside Peabody at the same family home, Hillcrest, where her father was born. She was the daughter of George Percival (Perce) and Helen (Baker) Potter.

Her studies in Peabody High School, from which she graduated in 1934, included French and Latin. She excelled as a student and loved learning all of her life. Her first year of college was at an exclusive girls’ school, Wells College, in California. She also learned about homesickness, as she could not afford any trips home. She transferred to Baker University at Baldwin, where she graduated with teaching credentials in 1938 and then taught English and French for three years at Whitewater.

Joan married John Berns Feb. 15, 1941, at Peabody Presbyterian Church, which they had both attended since childhood. She devoted herself to creating a close family just as an artist is devoted to creating art.

Four children were born. Joan was active in the children’s lives as community 4-H leader and Sunday school teacher. She used imagination in work and play and coordinated family travel, picnics, card and board games, singing, and holidays. Planning and cooking gracious meals were her forte.

John and Joan traveled to Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Egypt, and South America without using tours or reservations.

Joan served the Peabody community as president of the school board, on numerous church boards, community vacation Bible school, church choir, History Club, Athena Club, golf club, library board, and community projects such as the planning of the play equipment at the city park. She read to decades of elementary school students.

She was president of Kansas Cow Belles, which supported the Kansas Livestock Association. The past few years, she was an active volunteer at Peabody Senior Center and with reading groups at Peabody-Burns High School.

Playing contract bridge and reading were avid hobbies, as was knitting. Now-grown Peabody children treasure scores of her signature hand-knit Christmas stockings.

She was a teen-ager during the Great Depression and a young bride during World War II. Self-control with a sense of self-sufficiency and a Christian’s view of life made her happy and accepting of what life brought her. Joan, as a widow for 23 years, was a role model for the later stage of life. She loved and was much loved in return.

Her husband, John, a son-in-law Jim Whitefield, and a brother Thomas M. Potter preceded her in death.

Survivors include two daughters Patricia (Philip) Ridenour of Cimarron and Elizabeth Whitefield of Shawnee; and two sons Bruce (Pam) of Perry and Frederic (Lynn) of Peabody; a sister Pat Jackson of Marion; a brother Ethan Potter of Leavenworth; grandchildren Hannah and Gretchen Berns, Rachel (Rob) Holopirek, Evan Whitefield, Jon Whitefield (Andrea), Sara (Chris) Merwin, Elaine and Bryan Berns, Eric Ridenour, Scott (Vickie) Ridenour, and Blythe (Chris) Jones; and 11 great-grandchildren.

Joan enjoyed lifelong friendships with cousins, especially her Baker cousins, Ross and Heath Baker of Peabody. Nieces, nephews, and friends were important to her.

A memorial service is 1:30 p.m., May 29, at Peabody United Methodist Church with the Reverend David Ragland officiating. A reception will follow the service for family and guests.

A short family ceremony will follow at the gravesite in Prairie Lawn Cemetery where her ashes will later be interred.

The family suggests memorials in lieu of gifts of flowers, especially to the Peabody Community Fund and the Peabody-Burns High School Alumni Endowment Association. Joan was active on the boards of both.

Joan lived making a home for her family. She has now gone to the home that Christ died to make for her.

Last modified May 21, 2009

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