Northeast Georgia lost a special person this past Sunday, the kind of person one is privileged to know once in a lifetime. Joan King of Sautee was a Renaissance woman, a person who had many talents and worked hard at making the best use of them.
Although many people thought of Joan primarily as a political activist, she was so much more: a Quaker who sought to discern truth in spiritual matters, a dedicated student of history, a writer of stories and nonpolitical essays, a fiber artist who created amazing one-of-a-kind quilts and wall-hangings, a professionally trained and disciplined dancer, a thoughtful and unassuming philanthropist, a devoted environmentalist and much more. Anyone who knew Joan drew inspiration from her way of giving herself to every endeavor.
Joan King was well known to North Georgians for her newspaper columns in both The Times and the White County News for many years, as well as her countless letters to the editors of various newspapers. She was especially known for her efforts to stop the nuclear-related threats to humankind that she so feared. It's important to note that, whether she was expressing opinions about issues or displaying her fiber art creations or publishing a book of her stories, Joan was not someone who sought attention or praise. She was simply working at being her best self.
She did have strong opinions about political issues and saw it as her responsibility to voice them. Obviously, every reader didn't agree with Joan's views; in fact, because she was a progressive thinker in a conservative region, the opinions she expressed were almost always minority views. Yet anyone, regardless of political leanings, who aspires to be a good citizen should be able to draw inspiration from Joan's work.
Here's why: Joan's opinions were formed as a result of careful research, deep thought and soul searching. And her expectation, or at least her hope, was that others shared her understanding that open discussion and debate are a means of learning and of challenging one another to think clearly; therefore she sought opportunities for honest, friendly dialogue, whether in person or in print.
Joan's adversaries in print may or may not have noticed that she took care not to vilify those who expressed opinions that differed from hers but simply to state her ideas in a respectful way and hope that her offerings would be received in the same spirit.
Once, not very long ago, I wrote a letter to the editor of the White County News sticking up for Joan after another letter writer had, to my mind, maligned her unfairly. When she and I spoke soon after, what I noticed was the absence of righteous indignation on her part. She didn't have time or energy for that.
I knew Joan for 35 years and had countless discussions with her; and I never knew her to be mean-spirited or to do anything but take the high road. True to her Quaker religion, she was a peacemaker.
Joan's voice of reason and compassion — and her presence as one who exemplified the pursuit of excellence — will be sorely missed in this hurting world.