Cover photo for Joan F. Carr's Obituary
1939 Joan 2023

Joan F. Carr

September 21, 1939 — March 27, 2023


On March 27, 2023, Joan Frances Trefethen Carr passed away at the age of 83, after many years of courageously living with kidney disease. Her death leaves a hole in our lives, but only because of the joyous way she lived. Born in Portsmouth on September 21, 1939, she never spoke of the world war she was born into, but entertained us with rollicking stories of her childhood hijinks. Her favorite story was finding her father shaking his head over the local newspaper, wondering, “What is wrong with kids these days?” Some vandals had painted bright polka-dots all over the statue of Gen. Fitz John Porter proudly atop his horse in Haven Park. If only her father had known she was the ringleader!

Her love of her hometown and her deep roots in New Hampshire kept her grounded, even as she traveled as a Navy wife. Joan recalled her love of the warm people of Louisiana and of the peaceful views of horses from her Tennessee home. She even spent some years on her own in Florida, but home always called to her. Her face lit up every time she spoke about her favorite childhood bedroom, an attic room decorated in shades of green. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer, but it had something that made it all worthwhile: privacy.

She may have been proudest of her first apartment where she lived alone, having raised – by herself – four children and seen them off to adulthood. A serene and quiet space gave Joan the ingredients to enjoy her most treasured activities, reading and painting. In 1948, after winning an art contest sponsored by the Milton Bradley toy company, she knew her purpose in life was to create beautiful pictures of the world around her. Her interpretations of animals in the wild, of seascapes, shanties, mansions, and her loved ones were more than oil-paint versions. Her style brought out the essence of these things and showed that everything she saw in life had a personality that she could express like no one else. She shared her talent with everyone, selling her work and giving paintings as precious gifts, and by teaching classes at a Portsmouth senior center.

Joan cared most, though, for her family and friends. Her parties were famous among even her children’s friends, and her house nearly burst with food, drink, music, and laughter. She will be greatly missed by her sons and daughter, William, Michael, and Patricia; her daughter-in-law, Alethea; her grandchildren, Aubrey, Ellie, Leighton, Amber, Christina, Melissa, and Jackie; Joan knew the pain of loss, having buried her first child who was stillborn and her son, Kenneth, and losing both her older sister and her father, Ralph Ernest Trefethen, when Joan was still a child. Her brothers and her mother, Emma Sprague Trefethen, were not easier losses just because she had more years with them. We feel the same about her, no matter how grateful we are for her long life and our years together.

We invite those who loved her to join us later in the Spring for a celebration, and details will be shared closer to the event. Our deepest and most grateful thanks to the staff of the Dover Center for Health and Rehabilitation for their devoted care for her, which allowed her to paint prolifically into the last days of her life and allowed us to simply enjoy her.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Joan F. Carr, please visit our flower store.


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