Monday, November 21, 2016

Joan Rice, a class act at the BJ from 1966 through her 2001 buyout, passed away Friday, November 18.

She had been in Akron General Hospital for several weeks with cancer, which she had battled over the years.

Joan’s funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Newman Center Parish in Kent, with calling hours beginning at 10 a.m.

Only 12 days before Joan’s passing, her husband of 36 years, Summit County Sheriff’s Deputy Capt. Larry Momchilov, predeceased her.

Joan and I had desks next to each other in the BJ Features Department for 16 of my 26 years at Ol’ Blue Walls. She was always a great help to me in dealing with the inevitable problems of putting out a newspaper.

Former BJ arts and culture critic Elaine Guregian, who left 44 E. Exchange Street in 2008 to be Development Officer for Corporate and Foundation Relations with the Summa Foundation and later Northeast Ohio Medical University as Assistant Director of Public Relations and Marketing, posted an eloquent tribute to Joan:

“Joan had the highest ethical and journalistic standards, which she put to work every day in her job as Assistant Features Editor.

“She was also a deeply compassionate and engaged person who was up on every social, cultural and political trend.

“Joan was one of the most fun colleagues you could imagine, with a fashion sense that could put a much younger person to shame.

“She was a consummate professional who challenged all of us in Features to do our best work. I am proud to have worked with her and will really miss her.”

You are on the mark in every evaluation of Joan, Elaine. I would add that she is one of the reasons that I ran to work every day because it was a joy to work at the BJ.

Retired BJ outdoors and parks writer Bob Downing also nailed it:

“Joan was a great editor and an even better person.”

Betsy Lammerding, in the BJ Features Department with Joan and me, wrote:

“My heart is aching today. Joan and I sat within inches of each other for more than 25 years in Features. I admired everything about her. She was a mother hen, big sister, mentor, role model and friend. To know Joan was to love her.

“It was a pleasure to work with her for three decades.”

Indeed, Betsy. And with you, too.

PD and former BJ TV critic and pop culture writer Mark Dawidziak wrote:

“Just heartbroken. Joan was a terrific editor but, more importantly, a wonderful friend. Take all of the marvelous things being said about her, multiply it by a thousand, and you'd still be in the realm of understatement. Godspeed, old friend.”
Elaine, Betsy and Mark, like me, worked side by side with Joan day after day. We knew each other as well as we knew our own families.
Joan was about as special as any person can be.
Roger Mezger, who was in both the BJ and PD newsrooms, after calling Joan “one of the finest people I’ve ever known,” also pointed out that Joan was classy with more than just her clothing and personality:
“One really neat thing about Joan was how much she loved to drive. She indulged in that passion by driving a Porsche. Very classy.”

Notice than Joan and classy are synonyms? That’s no accident.

Retired BJ TV and pop culture critic Rich Heldenfels wrote:

Joan was always great to work with and a good friend.”

Former BJ Deputy Features Editor Lynne Sherwin wrote:

“So very sad. I’m sorry I’ll be out of town this weekend but I will be wearing my fuchsia tennis shoes in her honor.”

Joan brought class to everything she wore and to everyone she worked with.

Former all-everything at the BJ Stuart Warner wrote:

“Joan was one classy woman and journalist.”

Joan is survived by her identical twin, Marie Rice.
They look and sound and dress so much alike that they spent a lifetime of people calling one by the other’s name.
When I went to Kent’s Newman Chapel for Larry’s calling hours and I couldn’t find Joan, I walked up to a table where family members were chatting and said: “You must be the other Joan Rice.”
Marie’s answer, after decades of dealing with this: “Why, yes, I guess I am.”
You have to look really close to tell the difference: Marie has a small beauty mark on her right cheek.
That explains a lifetime of double-takes when both are in the same vicinity.

A Buffalo News article said the twins were born two minutes apart in rural New Milford, Ohio, but Joan spent her entire life in Rootstown, a few miles away. Joan was two minutes younger than Marie.

Joan’s brother, Michelin executive vice president John Rice, passed away in 2012. Besides Marie, her other sister is Nancy Rice Crouch. They are the children of Nancy and John Rice and grew up in Rootstown.

Larry was born in Barberton and was a Norton High graduate.

RIP, Joan. I will miss your infectious laughter, your heart-warming smile and your Triple-A quality as a human being.

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