GALESBURG - Joan Milam Kelley of Arlington, Va., formerly of Galesburg, died on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., after a long illness.
She was born on July 24, 1930, in Hopkinsville, Ky., to Robert D. Milam Sr. and Beulah Giles Milam. She was born and raised in the Church of Christ in Hopkinsville, where she was baptized. She was a faithful Christian who lived a life worthy of her Christian values and raised her children to know and love God.
Joan lived in Galesburg, Ill., for nearly 40 years until her retirement and relocation to the East Coast to be near family. Joan's life was focused on family, serving as a devoted daughter, a wonderful sister to her three siblings, a loving mother to her children and a doting grandmother to her grandchildren.
She is survived by children, Robert L. Smartt (Cindy Gordon) of Plainsboro, N.J., Karen Kelley-Ariwoola (Joseph) of Minneapolis, Minn., William E. Kelley Jr. of St. Louis, Mo., Karla R. Kelley of Washington, D.C., and Manda M. Kelley (Robert Shaffer) of Washington, D.C. She was a loving grandmother to Solomon A. Ariwoola and Sam A. Ariwoola (Minneapolis, Minn.) and Keyanna R. Kelley (Washington, D.C.).
She was preceded in death by her beloved parents; her brothers, Robert D. Milam Jr. and Raymond Milam; a sister, Barbara Jean Milam; and two daughters, Barbara Gayle Goolsby and Katrina Ann Kelley.
She is also survived by a host of other relatives and friends, all of whom loved her dearly.
Joan received a B.S. degree in music education from Hampton Institute in Hampton, Va., and a M.S.W. from the University of Iowa School of Social Work in Iowa City, Iowa.
An accomplished musician (voice, clarinet and piano), she began her career as a music teacher, where she taught in Monticello, Ga., Lake City, Fla., and Mayfield, Ky. In 1963, she began her social work career as a social work trainee in the Galesburg Field office of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Her career at DCFS spanned nearly three decades culminating with her retirement in 1991. She was a caring and skilled social worker and social work administrator who quickly rose through the ranks of DCFS. Upon her retirement she was serving as the assistant regional administrator for the Central Region after 28 years of service to the state of Illinois.
During her career she mentored many young social workers, directly and positively impacted the lives of thousands of children and influenced DCFS policy and procedures in numerous areas including foster care and adoption.
Nationally she was active in the National Association of Black Social Workers and the One Church One Child black adoption initiative. Joan was deeply devoted to community service. She was elected to serve as the first African American member of the Galesburg School District 205 School Board, where she served from 1968 to 1977. She was also active in the Galesburg Branch of the American Association of University Women, and as a board member of the former Community Operation for Pre-School Education (Headstart) and the Human Relations Commission. She was a quiet and passionate civil rights activist and a relentless advocate for the well-being of children.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, at Cedar Hill Funeral Home, 4111 Pennsylvania Ave., Suitland, MD 20746, www.cedarhillfuneralhome.com. Interment will follow in Cedar Hill Cemetery.
The family requests memorials in Joan's honor to the Harrington Family Services Foundation, 2223 Windish Drive, Galesburg, Ill.; or the Gale Scholars Program, a collaborative partnership between Galesburg District 205, Carl Sandburg College and Knox College to support college access and completion for academically promising first-generation and income eligible youth within District 205. Memorial donations may be made to the George Washington Gale Scholars program with checks payable to Gale Scholars Program/Knox College at 2 East South St., Galesburg, IL 61401-4999.