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Celebrating a Life Lived with Purpose Joan Imhof of Bayville: Dies at 67

Joan Aileen Whiteman Imhof died on Dec. 12. A resident of Bayville, she was the wife of John Imhof and the mother of Julie and Meg. She died at the age of 67, of complications of a fast moving pancreatic tumor.

Joan Imhof’s death is a loss to the community because in her life she made such an effort to work for the community’s good.

She served on the Bayville board; co-founded the Red Cross Swim-A-Cross with Judge Ute Lally which they ran for 10 years. She is best known for her work with the Long Island Volunteer Center which she founded. She also raised funds for NSUH-LIJ for the Brain Aneurysm Center. Ms. Imhof worked for Newsday as a project manager for Future Corps from 1999 to 2009, a student service project.

Ms. Imhof served as a Bayville Village trustee from 1972 to 1982. Her husband John said, “While there she worked with NYS Senator Ralph Marino coming up with the concept of reverse mortgages and in getting the legislation approved. Now it has taken off all over the country. That was when she was a Bayville board trustee. She also worked on flood insurance for Bayville,” he said.

Honored for Service

In 2002 she was voted into the Long Island Volunteer Hall of Fame. “The Long Island Volunteer Center was established in 1992 by Joan Imhof, who was the previous director of volunteer services for Nassau County. After the Nassau and Suffolk County Offices for Volunteers were defunded, she continued receiving phone calls at her home from agencies seeking volunteers,” states the LIVHF archive. “Realizing the vital importance of the maintence of the volunteer center, Joan applied for and received funding from the Points of Light Foundation, Mott and Kellogg Foundations, and Chase Manhattan Foundation which enabled her to create the Long Island Volunteer Center to serve both Nassau and Suffolk Counties.”

When Republican President George H. W. Bush gave his State of the Union Address on January 29, 1991 he envisioned “One Thousand Points of Light” representing volunteers all over the country, of which Joan was certainly one.

Ms. Imhof had an artistic side too, as a photographer.

Think Long Island’s Ewa Ruprecht and Jolanta Zamecka expressed their sympathy to Joan Imhof’s family saying, “Her warmth, dedication to public service, and her volunteering activities touched many.” They carry Joan’s note cards with beautiful photos of Oyster Bay, Bayville, Centre Island, and Long Island Sound, in their Oyster Bay store.

 Her husband John said, “One of her passions all through her life was taking photographs. We recently met Suzy Francy-Jenkins [the former Oyster Bay Enterprise Pilot editor for whom Joan took photographs] who was with her brother Paul. We went sailing with Paul and the group at Brian Lawrence Hunt’s Oakcliff Sailing Center. (In business Mr. Hunt is known as Brian and in sailing he is known as Lawrence.)

“I took Joan on a last sail on Caper. It’s one of Lawrence Hunt’s bigger classic wooden boats, it’s 57 feet long and was built on Long Island. (There are about four or five of the classics that race in Oyster Bay.)

“She loved it. We had a full house of fellow sailors on board. It was a wonderful life. I have all fine memories. I’d do it all over again,” he said.

Besides loving sailing, Ms. Imhof loved swimming. She and Judge Ute Lally were the founders of the Red Cross Swim-A-Cross that they ran for 20 years on Centre Island beach.

When she wanted to create a fundraiser for the Brain Aneurysm Center she again turned to swimming as a way to do that.

Ms. Imhof suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm five years ago and was treated by North Shore University Hospital’s David Chalif, MD and Avi Setton, MD.

After her brain aneurysm, John said, “She worked real hard to recover. She had some cognitive issues and she overcame 99 percent of those issues. Her doctors dealt with the surgery, but there is an after path, and she worked with people in North Shore Hospital LIJ in Manhasset in helping other patients with those issues.”

On Aug. 13, Ms. Imhof, along with the Long Island Volunteer Center, an affiliate of HandsOn Network, organized the fifth annual one-mile swim in Oyster Bay Cove, to raise funds for North Shore University Hospital’s Brain Aneurysm Center, part of the Cushing Neuroscience Institute. 

Her granddaughter Madison Callinan, aged 10, took part in the 2010 swim and said, “I swam this for my dad’s dad Thomas Callinan, who died of a brain aneurysm and for my Nan - Joan Imhof - who survived one. I felt good that I actually swam back to the beach.”

She continued to use her life experiences to help others.

Former Bayville Mayor Victoria Siegel said, “Joan was a person who was very much involved with the community. She was a ‘community person.’  I’ve always respected her for that.”

Ms. Imhof herself possibly put it all best when she said as founder of the Long Island Volunteer Center, “I feel most grateful when people who have benefited from the help of a volunteer walk out of the building with happy faces and thank us. I feel like we have shared a moment celebrating their lives. It is all about celebrating life.”

John Imhof said, “We had a lovely wake [at the Beney Funeral Home in Syosset on Dec. 16] and a funeral mass at St. Gertrude’s in Bayville on Saturday, Dec. 17, and a reception following at Meridah, the Chaminade retreat house.”

Mr. Imhof carries on the family tradition of volunteering. He was a volunteer in the recent re-construction of the Christeen and is currently volunteering on the Ida May Project. “Half the frames are up already and it looks beautiful,” he said.

Ms. Imhof is survived by her husband, John; her daughters and their husbands:, Julie and Frank Matozzo of Bayville and Meg and her husband John Callinan of Huntington; and six grandchildren: Madison, Jacqueline, Michael, Katherine, Lilianna and Tessa. Ms. Imhof was the sister of Ellen (Ernie) Whiteman Tiu; Richard (Trish)Whiteman, Donald Whiteman, Robert (Rhonda) Whiteman and Brian (Ellen) Whiteman.