First Church of Christ
511 Amity Rd
Bethany, CT 06524
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1931 - 2015
BARNETT, JONI ERIN EVANS Joni Erin Evans Barnett of Bethany, CT, Navarre Beach, FL and Marietta GA. Joni Erin Evans Barnett came into the world February 24, 1931 and left it May 26, 2015. Born in Chicago to James Morgan and Nona Murphy Evans, she grew up in Wisconsin. She loved horses; drawing them, riding, and caring for them with equal enthusiasm. She loved performing, both in gymnastics and synchronized swimming, as well as plays and musicals. Her family moved to California for a time in the late 1940s so she could pursue an acting career. Her enthusiasm for athletics led to a first all-around medal in Gymnastics, and second place in Synchronized Swimming at the Midwestern AAU championships. After graduating college in Chicago, she earned a Master’s Degree at the University of Illinois. She moved to Connecticut in the late 1950s, and made Bethany her home for over 50 years. After coaching Synchronized Swimming at Southern Connecticut State College, she was hired in the same capacity at Yale in 1969, with the first class of women admitted to the University. Soon after, she was appointed Director of Women’s Physical Education, and by 1973 was named Director of Phys. Ed for all undergraduates, the first woman to hold that position at any co-educational university in America. She was a Fellow at Dwight College, marched in many Commencement Processions, had numerous articles written about her, and appeared on several TV shows, including What’s My Line, To Tell The Truth, and I’ve Got A Secret. She traveled to Red China in 1974, with the first group of educators to visit there after President Nixon opened relations with that country. In 1983 she was named Director of Yale’s Office of Community and State Relations, a position she held until her retirement. She was very active in a leadership role with the Connecticut Special Olympics Summer Games for a number of years. Joni also served on The President’s Council On Physical Fitness. In 1998 she was awarded Yale’s Kiputh Medal. Bethany was where she made her home, first at Clover Nook Farm, then on Downs Road for over 40 years. With her loving husband Jerrold Hyatt Barnett, she raised her two sons, Jim and Frank, along with a large and ever-changing menagerie of dogs, cats, show chickens, ducks, turtles, and, of course, land crabs. She was very involved in town life in Bethany, running for the School Board, organizing 4-H floats for the Memorial Day Parade, and teaching a generation or two of Bethany children how to swim at Peck Pond. She was very involved in the Sesquicentennial celebration as well. A member of The First Church of Christ Congregational since the 1960s, she rarely missed a Strawberry Supper and never missed a Rummage Sale. She and Jerry had a love for international travel, visiting Mexico numerous times, as well as Turkey, Russia, Europe and South America. Every country they visited was a new source of friends, artwork, rugs and pottery. After retirement, they designed a house on the Gulf of Mexico, and divided their time between Bethany and Florida, driving 1000 miles twice a year with a large dog and small but very vocal cat. They made many friends in Florida, and were as active in the community there as they were in Bethany. She indulged her love of painting and sculpture, producing numerous watercolors inspired by her imagination and the beauty she saw on Santa Rosa Island and in Bethany. After Jerry suffered a stroke, she devoted four years of her life to helping him recover. Sadly, it was a battle she could not win, although she did convince Governor Rowland to honor Jerry by declaring October 18, 2004 as Judge Jerrold Barnett Day in the state of Connecticut. Reflecting on her life recently, she had expressed some doubts about her accomplishments and legacy. Anyone that knew her and of her achievements would be incredulous she could entertain any such doubt. She mentored, taught, entertained, amused and inspired many, many people in the course of her lifetime. Everyone who achieves so much in life sometimes feels they could have done more, which is the sign of a truly accomplished and honest person. Your Family, Friends, and Colleagues love you and will miss you very much. Rest In Peace. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to The Barnett Family Fund at The Community Foundation For Greater New Haven, which provides educational opportunities for disadvantaged New Haven children through Yale’s Peabody Museum. https://www.cfgnh.org/IncreasingGiving/DonateOnline.aspx?fn=Barnett+Family+Fund A Memorial Service will be held Saturday July 18, 3 pm, at First Church of Christ Congregational, 511 Amity Road, Bethany, after a private family gathering at Carrington Cemetery.
Published in The New Haven Register on July 12, 2015
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