Joan Mary Henderson passed away peacefully surrounded by her family on December 29, 2023, at the age of 90 while in the care of Gulfside Hospice in New Port Richey, Florida. She was born on June 8, 1933, in Hempstead, New York, one of two children, to John and Anne Bates. Joan was a strong-willed, talented, and worldly individual who lived a life filled with adventure.
In her early years, Joan attended Hempstead High School and later pursued higher education and earned an associate degree from Casenovia College and a bachelor’s degree from Sacred Heart University, majoring in accounting. The later degree was completed while working full-time and attending classes at night.
She had a diverse career spanning several decades. In the 1950s, she worked as a flight attendant for Colonial/Eastern Airlines. However, she fell in love and gave up serving cocktails in the air to serving baby bottles to the four wonderful reproductions of her and her husband, Archie. From the mid 70’s to early 90’s, Joan was employed as a bookkeeper, accountant and controller for a few companies including CPI Plants in Shelton, Connecticut. Later in life, she returned to her passion for flying and worked as a flight attendant for Delta Airlines from 1993 to 2007. She was based out of New York with countless destinations that spanned the globe. It was a job she didn’t need to do, but really enjoyed doing…except maybe for some of the flights from LaGuardia to West Palm Beach.
After 46 years of marriage, Joan lost her first love and turned to flying every chance she could get. Her life was back in the air. The second part of her life was spent with her second love, and instead of being in the air, she and Frank did their vacationing on the water and on the land. They cruised across the world’s oceans and the seas together.
Joan and Frank spent several years being snowbirds escaping the Connecticut winters in New Port Richey with Joan’s sister Doris and her husband Louis. They permanently moved to Florida two years ago, settling into the welcoming Seven Springs community where they gained countless new dear friends. Joan switched snow boots for bocce and swimming year-round.
For many years, Joan was an active member of the Connecticut Chapter of the Silverliners, a charitable organization of retired flight attendants that participates in civic and philanthropic endeavors. Specifically, the Chapter was dedicated to supporting Paul Newman’s Hole-in-the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Connecticut. This camp allows children with serious illnesses to just be kids, and “raise a little hell” while experiencing diverse and transformational friendships that go hand-in-hand with Camp. The most memorable annual event for the Chapter was turning a gate at Bradley International Airport into a winter wonderland for the “Flight to the North Pole” to bring happiness to the kids from the Camp with their families. She really enjoyed dressing up as one of Santa’s helpers each year and putting smiles on so many peoples’ faces.
Joan had a zest for life and enjoyed various hobbies, including traveling, cruising, camping, reading, knitting, sewing, swimming, boating, woodworking, and upholstering. She also enjoyed playing a wide variety of sports and games including bocce ball, hand and foot, cornhole, skiing, tubing, ping pong and tennis. She was a skilled and talented individual who always sought new experiences and challenges.
Joan was a devoted member of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church, where she found solace and strength. Her faith was an important part of her life, and she found comfort in her religious community. She was at peace with knowing St. Michael would guide her way beyond this life.
Joan is survived by her second husband, Frank Melia, her sister, Doris Nunziata, her daughter, Joanne Altenburg, and son-in-law, David Altenburg. She is also survived by her son, Archie Henderson, and daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Henderson, as well as her son, John Henderson. She has three loving grandchildren, Annie, Carter and Casey, that she adored. She was preceded in death by her father, John Bates, her mother, Anne Bates, her first husband, Archie Henderson, her son, Michael Henderson, and her brother-in-law, Louis Nunziata.
A service to celebrate Joan's life will be held at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Trinity, Florida on January 11th at 10:30 AM. Joan will be inurned at Hillside Cemetery in Wilton, Connecticut. Contributions in her memory can be made to The Hole-in-the Wall Gang Camp (https://www.holeinthewallgang.org/get-involved/#donate), Tunnels to Towers Foundation (https://t2t.org/), Salvation Army (https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/), or Gulfside Hospice (https://www.gulfside.org/make-a-gift.html). The Morgan Funeral Home in New Port Richey, Florida, is assisting the family with the arrangements.
Joan will be dearly missed by her loved ones and all those who had the pleasure of knowing her. She truly lived her best life. We hope God has airplanes in heaven so she can get back to work. Her spirit of adventure, wit, talent, and resilience will continue to inspire us all.