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JoAnne Fabian


1934 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
JoAnne Fabian Obituary
JoAnne Fabian Born on a farm in New Jersey, had a pony of her own when she was eight, helped birth kittens in her barn, played games in which she was the lead WWII commando, and remained true to her bravery as she stood guard over the entrance to the new Planned Parenthood Clinic in San Rafael protecting the staff and the patients in the bad old days when Planned Parenthood was under constant attack. Respected Marin County lawyer and executive with both financial institutions and non-profits, JoAnne Fabian died in San Rafael, California on December 1, 2017. She was 83. Most recently, she lived at Aegis Corte Madera, California. JoAnne Frances was born in Bridgeton, New Jersey on April 14, 1934 to Pearl Garrison Newkirk and Joseph Anderson Newkirk. Her father was head of the school board and worked with the Rutgers University Cooperative Extension Research, growing some of New Jersey's first asparagus crops. Her first life plan was to become a doctor. She studied Chemistry at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, a feeder for the Medical Schools in Philadelphia. During her time at college she decided medicine was not for her, and after her graduation she went to work at Merck, Sharpe and Dohme Research Laboratories in Rahway, New Jersey. Starting in a microbiology lab as a technician, JoAnne went on to be part of the International Division responsible for licensing drugs overseas. In 1962 JoAnne Newkirk met and married John Fabian, also a researcher at Merck. She and John had a daughter, Gabrielle Elizabeth, in 1965. JoAnne always loved language and literature. During her time at Merck, she completed a Masters of Arts in English at Seton Hall University, Newark, New Jersey with her thesis, Religious Satire in the Plays of Shaw. Ultimately, Joanne found her way to law, a profession that deeply affects our lives through the power of language. After JoAnne and John divorced in 1968, she applied to the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco and entered the class of 1974. While at Hastings she was part of the prestigious Hastings Law Journal. When JoAnne and Gabrielle moved to California in 1972, she and her dearest friends, Peggy Woodring and Robert Bell (1922-1995), found a large house able to accommodate their already blended family including children from Robert's prior marriage and Peggy and Bob's new daughter. There, Gabrielle would develop sibling-like relations with the other children, and all three parents supported each other in the important venture of family life with three professional adults raising children. JoAnne was one of twenty women and four men to establish New Horizons Saving and Loan Association, an institution dedicated to increasing women's access to credit. New Horizons opened in San Rafael in 1978. She served as Vice President for over fifteen years, served on the Board of Directors, and helped forge their merger into Luther Burbank Savings and Loan Association in 1996. In addition to her distinguished professional contributions, JoAnne played an important role in the community. As a Planned Parenthood of Marin Board member, she helped lead the design and construction of the clinic on H Street and Fourth in San Rafael. Later she was a key decision maker in the merger into the current Planned Parenthood of Northern California, strengthening the organization and increasing services. JoAnne also served on the Board of the Ecumenical Association for Housing, a nonprofit working on behalf of families, elders and disabled people to find affordable housing in Marin and other counties in California and in Hawaii. Her experience in the Savings and Loan world allowed her to bring that expertise to the development of new housing and renovation of existing housing. We are the family that grieves the loss of JoAnne Fabian, our beloved family member: daughter Gabrielle Elizabeth and partner Steve Higgins, Petaluma, California; Phaedra Bell and Daniel Dohan, San Francisco, California; Ward Bell and Dee Bell, Point Richmond, California; Lissa Bell, Washington D.C.; Peggy Woodring, San Rafael, California; and her grandchildren, Rosie Bell and Joseph Dohan, San Francisco, California. JoAnne is also survived by her brothers Walter Newkirk and Joseph Newkirk who live in New Jersey and by her many nieces and nephews. Memorial contributions may be made to Planned Parenthood at https://tinyurl.com/JAF-ppdonation or Ecumenical Housing Association at https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/eahhousing.
Published in Marin Independent Journal on Dec. 6, 2017
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