Her Legacy… Joan Carol Hutchison, tireless advocate of the unborn, passed away at the age of 87 on May 4, 2023. Born August 7, 1935, in Cleveland, Ohio to Anthony and Marie (O’Brien) Stovicek, Joan was a servant of God and faithfully carried his ministry far and wide.
From a very young age, she devoted herself in the service of the Lord. A pioneer and champion of women, she went to a Catholic college at a time when most women didn’t advance beyond high school. She forged a career that took her from the newsrooms of august publications like The Saturday Evening Post to the inner workings of state governments in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Upon retirement, she pursued her calling as Executive Director of Pregnancy Helpline, significantly establishing its presence in Livingston County and creating a ministry dedicated to protecting the unborn and counseling women in crisis pregnancies.
Along the way, she raised five boys, earned a master’s degree, taught a college-level course, and tirelessly shared all she learned with the next generation of young professionals. Most importantly, she dedicated herself to continuously improving her hometown. Today, you can see the fruits of her labors firsthand as the first president of the Brighton District Library, which sits at the epicenter of multiple jurisdictions.
She has always been a trailblazer for women’s rights. In 1953, upon her high school graduation, Joan was one of the few women of her time to attend college. Her parents wanted their daughter to have all of the opportunities that were available to men at the time. In 1957, Joan earned her bachelor’s degree in Journalism, with a minor in Business Administration, from St. Joseph College in Emmitsburg, Md. Upon graduation, Joan was heavily recruited by various employers, including the National Security Agency (which wanted her to study Mandarin and consider a role in International Affairs), the Chase Banking Corporation in New York City and Good Housekeeping magazine, also in New York.
Instead, she embarked on her first post-college career with The Saturday Evening Post, the weekly magazine that competed head-to-head with other iconic titles including Life and TIME magazines. While at The Post from 1957-1959, Joan served as an editorial assistant to the Foreign Editor, copy-editing the work of far-flung correspondents, conducting extensive research about world affairs, and reviewing submissions from other would-be writers in the United States and abroad.
Joan married in 1959 and went on to have five boys over a 10-year period but would continue to cultivate her career while raising children. She was “leaning in,” personally and professionally, long before the phrase became the mantra of women of today’s generation.
Among her more notable positions, Joan served as the Assistant Director of Public Relations at the University of Delaware, and, later, as a Director of Public Relations for Goodwill Industries in Harrisburg, PA.
In 1975, she was appointed Public Information Officer for the Department of Public Welfare for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In this role, she served as Editor of The Challenge, a bi-monthly magazine, and also developed state-wide public education campaigns that tackled tough subjects, such as child abuse prevention, care for the aging, poverty and more. Her child abuse public education campaign was, in a word, groundbreaking, and resulted in Pennsylvania establishing CHILDLINE, the nation’s first 1-800 toll-free number for citizens to report suspected child abuse. Joan’s work earned widespread recognition, including first-place awards from the National Association of Mental Health Information Officers and the National Community Mental Health Association. Serving the Residents of Brighton – and Michigan
In 1977, Joan relocated to Michigan with her husband and five children, and settled in Brighton in early 1978, where she has lived since. From 1977-2000, she held various roles with the Michigan Municipal League (MML), a professional association for Michigan’s elected officials, based in Ann Arbor. By now an accredited and award-winning journalist and public-information officer, Joan served as the editor of Michigan Municipal Review, a monthly magazine distributed to all officials in Michigan’s cities, villages and charter townships. She also served as the association’s Director of Education and Information, developing education-based meetings for employees and officials across the state.
Upon the end of his second term, then-Governor James J. Blanchard acknowledged Joan’s work in training Michigan’s elected officials. A letter dated June 20, 1991 reads, in part:
“The high caliber of local officials we have in Michigan made much of my work especially rewarding. A strong partnership with local government was key to so much that we accomplished. Thank you! As Director of Education and Information for MML, you played an important role in building Michigan’s future.” In addition to the acknowledgment from the governor, Joan also received numerous awards, including Meeting Planner of the Year in 1986 from the Michigan Meeting Planners Association.
While working for Michigan Municipal League, Joan also pursued a Master’s in Communication at Eastern Michigan University, and, after receiving her M.A., served as an Adjunct Professor within EMU’s Communications Department teaching the next generation of meeting and conventions planners.
To make ends meet, Joan also worked in the 1980s as a freelance reporter, covering Brighton School Board, Green Oak Township Meetings, and other area news events for The Ann Arbor News and the Brighton Argus.
In addition to holding down her full-time job at MML, earning her master’s degree and teaching a college-level course, Joan also saw an opportunity to serve the residents of the community she called home.
In 1990, she was appointed the first president of the Brighton District Library Board of Directors and served in various capacities until 1997. She was recruited to the Board by Brighton’s then-City Manager Dana Foster, who recognized her legislative knowledge and urged her to serve on the Board. For context’s sake, in 1989, the Michigan legislature passed the District Library Establishment Act 24, which called for various municipalities to be served by an independent and self-supporting District Library. Joan’s experience in municipal governance would quickly be an asset to the organization, and her love of reading and writing compelled her to serve in this volunteer capacity.
In July 2000, Joan retired from MML. In early 2001, she saw an ad in a church bulletin for a part-time executive director of Pregnancy Helpline in Hartland. She applied, was offered the job and began work assisting women experiencing crisis pregnancies. The organization’s mission: to see that all babies are born and to help women with food/formula, clothing, diapers and more.
A lifelong supporter of women, Joan felt this would be the most-meaningful position of her career – and it was.
In 2002, Joan had the vision to move Pregnancy Helpline from Hartland to a bigger and more-central space in Brighton, reaching a greater number of clients and providing a greater number of services. However, there was no money in the budget for a move and, in fact, the Board was not considering a move. So, Joan and the team embarked on a fundraising campaign. Ultimately, the donors came through and a move was planned in April 2003. When the time came, more than 30 area residents with large trucks showed up to help Pregnancy Helpline relocate to Brighton.
Under Joan’s leadership, the organization began experimenting with new ways to raise money. One effort in particular proved extremely successful: Passing out empty baby bottles in area churches for members to fill with coins to provide services and supplies for women in crisis, fathers and their newborns. As a result, she is survived by countless saved babies.
Her Family… Joan will be missed by her children, Robert (Michelle) Hutchison, Thomas Hutchison, Neil (Margot) Hutchison, David Hutchison, and Matthew Hutchison; sisters-in-law, Ruth Grauley, Geraldine M. Hutchison; grandchildren, Emily (Geoffrey), Madeline (Travis), Melissa, Cara, Abby, Molly, Andrew, Sam, and Charles; great grandchildren, Harriet, Mabel, and Harper; many nieces, nephews, cousins, and the countless babies she saved through her ministry.
Her Farewell… Joan’s family and friends will gather Wednesday, May 10, 2023 from 4:00pm – 8:00pm at Borek Jennings Funeral Home, Hamburg Chapel in Hamburg, Michigan. Her Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Thursday, May 11, 2023 at 11:00am (10am gathering). Father John Rocus will serve as celebrant. Memorial contributions are suggested to Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church. Please leave a message of comfort for Joan’s family at 1-877-231-7900, or sign her guestbook at www.borekjennings.com.
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Holy Spirit Catholic Church
9565 Musch Road, Brighton MI 48116