Obituary of Joan Markle Mihm
Joan Markle Mihm, a longtime resident of Glastonbury, died peacefully at the Orchard, an assisted-living facility in Athens, Georgia on Sunday, June 11. She was the devoted wife of Richard “Dick” Mihm, to whom she was married for 61 years before he passed away in 2018.
Mihm was born in Manasquan, New Jersey to the late Virgil and Georgiana Markle. She grew up in the Great Depression in Sea Girt, New Jersey, a tiny town famed for its oceanfront boardwalk and sand dunes. A self-described “tomboy,” Mihm spent her childhood climbing trees, riding her bike, and wandering the ocean shore. These experiences gave her a lifelong love of the great outdoors.
Fiercely independent, Mihm also had a keen scientific mind, one that led her to enroll in the New Jersey College for Women, now part of Rutgers University. She majored in Microbiology, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1954. Shortly afterward, she began working as a researcher at the Rutgers Institute of Microbiology, eventually co-authoring five scientific papers with her longtime friend and coauthor, Ruth Gordon.
On a hot summer day in 1956, fate led Mihm to go to the university pool. She would later recall how she spotted her future husband, then an undergraduate at Rutgers, underwater. Both surfaced and began talking. A date followed, and several months later, a wedding, inaugurating 61 years of marriage to a man who shared her passions. She moved to Glastonbury in 1962 after her husband took a job as a science teacher in the public high school.
That same decade, Mihm had two children: a daughter, Kathy; and a son, Stephen. Like many women who gave up careers at this time to become mothers, Mihm developed other interests compatible with raising children. Eager to save money, given her husband’s modest salary as a schoolteacher, Mihm planted a vegetable garden that quickly became the envy of the neighborhood. Long before organic foods went mainstream, Mihm turned the backyard of her suburban home into a model of sustainable agriculture, growing everything from lettuce to cauliflower to peas to feed her growing family – all without the use of pesticides.
Mihm’s devotion to environmental causes led her and her husband to play formative roles in the creation of the Great Meadows Conservation Trust, a land-preservation group dedicated to protecting the floodplain of the Connecticut River within the towns of Glastonbury, Rocky Hill, and Wethersfield. Mihm served as the organization’s longtime secretary, joining other likeminded citizens in the area to preserve this fragile ecosystem from further development.
As her children got older, Mihm went back to work at the Welles-Turner Memorial Library at the checkout desk. She remained there for nearly twenty-five years, becoming a familiar face for an entire generation of Glastonbury residents. She also volunteered at St. James’ Episcopal Church, where she was a member of the congregation for over sixty years.
Mihm and her husband spent much of their marriage exploring the countryside of Connecticut. They hiked the region’s many parks and preserves and took up cross-country skiing. But their favorite pastime was canoeing. On most weekends they could be found paddling the state’s many waterways in their beloved Grumman aluminum canoe, a pastime they maintained until their early eighties.
Mihm is survived by her daughter, Kathy Mihm Dunning, and son-in-law Jeff Dunning, both of Denver, Colorado; her son, Stephen Mihm, and daughter-in-law Akela Reason, both of Watkinsville, Georgia; and her four grandchildren: Alisa Dunning; and Silas, Asher, and Linus Mihm.
A visitation with the family will be held at 1 pm, Thursday, June 29 at St. James Episcopal Church at 2584 Main Street in Glastonbury, with a funeral at 2 pm. Burial will follow at the Green Cemetery in Glastonbury. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Great Meadows Conservation Trust, PO Box 171, Glastonbury, CT 06033. For online condolences, please visit www.mulryanfh.com.