Joan Madden, 85, of Westport

Joan was a standout in Searles High School, where she was involved in many clubs, including 4-H, and where she made lifelong friends.

Editor’s note: the information about services has been revised.

Joan Madden, who died peacefully Aug. 27, 2020, at age 85, was loved dearly by her children, grandchildren, siblings, friends, colleagues, and anyone who had the good fortune to have known her. She was a gentlewoman and devoted mother, a fun-loving companion and a kind, open-hearted friend.

Joan Madden

She was born Joan Marie Madden, the second daughter born to John and Mary Madden. She grew up in Housatonic next to the Housatonic River and upstream from the Rising Paper Mill that employed many in town, including her father. Her older sister Shirley died young, and Joan became the eldest sibling to her younger brother James and sister Jeanne. Joan was a standout in Searles High School, where she was involved in many clubs, including 4-H, and where she made lifelong friends.

Upon graduation she went to work as a customer service agent for the Bell Telephone Co. She was recognized as a quick study and offered a promotion to the head office in Boston when she met a young enlisted Navy man at a local dance named William M. Dermody, who would become her husband. Joan poured her heart into running her household and raising her family while her husband worked for the Pittsfield Police Department.

She gave birth to four children and her home became a favorite gathering place for the Dermody and Madden families during summertime and on holidays. She loved to ski; in the spring she’d plant one of the largest gardens in the neighborhood. She was glamorous and had style.

William would eventually become chief of police in Pittsfield, and when her children became older Joan taught herself to speed-type and take shorthand dictation so she could bring in extra money as a secretary. She worked for years at Berkshire Community College, but still managed to have dinner on the table for her family every night.

In 1994 her marriage ended and she made the move to Boston that she would’ve decades earlier had she not married William, who died in 2002. Joan found work in the office of the dean of student services at the Harvard School of Medicine as the administrative assistant and became an admired member of a team of top medical professionals and Ivy League academics.

In the city, Joan loved trying new foods, visiting museums and seeing films. Her motto was “carpe diem” and she was a regular at Fenway Park for Red Sox games and went on cruises with her beloved son John, whose death in 2010 broke her heart.

She fulfilled a lifelong dream of living near the ocean when she retired to Westport on Buzzards Bay. She fell ill years ago but despite that hardship, never lost her positive spirit and friendliness. It was easy to get her to laugh and she continued to enjoy good conversation and long looks at the ocean while having her coffee. She was remembered as always being strong for those she loved, and a genuine lady.

Joan died on her birthday, returned to God on the day he gave her to us. She leaves behind daughter Maureen Bouris and husband John of Westport; son William M. Dermody Jr. and wife Denise of Oakton, Virginia; daughter Dana Dermody of Pittsfield; brother James; and seven grandchildren.

Funeral services for Joan M. Madden are private. Donations in memory of Joan may be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital through Finnerty & Stevens Funeral Home, 426 Main St., Great Barrington, MA 01230. To send remembrances to the family. go to