Mary Coker Joslin was born in 1922 in Hartsville, South Carolina, into a family who loved nature and gardens, valued education, and had a deep sense of civic and social responsibility. These ideals were imprinted on her heart as well as in her DNA. As a child she also benefitted greatly from the cultural opportunities offered by Coker College, whose campus was adjacent to the home of her parents, David R. and May Roper Coker.
Mary continued her education at St. Catherine’s School, Vassar College and later, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. During World War II she had the good fortune to meet a naval officer named William Joslin, who was a college friend of her cousin. They courted by correspondence for the duration of the war, while William served in the Pacific theater, and then in 1946 they married. So began a union marked by loyalty, deep respect, and the joy of shared accomplishments.
In 1948 William and Mary settled in William’s hometown of Raleigh, where he began his law practice. In 1950 a wonderful thing happened when they purchased a 4+ acre tract of scrubby pine forest on what was then the northern outskirts of town. Here they built their home, raised their six children, and developed their extensive garden of flowers and vegetables, rare and native plants.
Mary loved music and played the piano all her life. A favorite thing was to have musical soirees at home, where friends gathered for dinner and then played for each other. At Christmas she and William often hosted a large carol-singing party. Mary and William welcomed people of all colors, religions and nationalities into their home. With six children and all of these kinds of things going on, the result was a rich and glorious chaos. It was an atmosphere and a life of openness, hospitality, and generosity.
Mary loved everything French and became a teacher of its language, literature and art beginning in the late 1960s. She studied and traveled widely in France and taught at Ravenscroft School and St. Augustine’s College, earning a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. in French from UNC-CH along the way. Mary loved learning and she never stopped doing it. In the early 1950s, she was instrumental in starting a monthly meeting of friends (originally six women and their attorney husbands) called “the Study Club,” whose purpose was to take turns giving papers on any topic of interest. More than 60 years later, the Study Club is still alive and well, functioning under the same basic structure. The Joslin home was always filled with books on nature, gardening, French language and literature, art, archeology, history and law. Mary herself wrote and published four books, two scholarly and two for general audiences.
Mary and William advocated for progressive causes and were active in the civil rights movement and later in many kinds of environmental initiatives. Before William’s death in 2011, they worked with the City of Oaks Foundation, a Raleigh-based land trust, the Raleigh Parks Department, and the Triangle Land Conservancy to preserve their property for public use and enjoyment. Mary liked to call her garden, with its many trees and shrubs, “the lungs of the neighborhood.” It made her happy that for generations to come the people of Raleigh will be able to learn about nature and to enjoy the garden she and William spent so many years building.
William and Mary Joslin’s survivors include Ann J. Killough (husband Joseph), Carolyn J. Watson (husband Randy), Nell D. Joslin (former husband Gray Medlin), William H. Joslin (wife Becky), David C. Joslin (wife Laurie), and James D. Joslin (wife Beth), 15 grandchildren (Katherine, Cynthia and Margaret Killough; Stella, Randall and Daniel Watson; Ellen, Mary and Annie Lane Medlin; Joel, Lydia and Andrew Joslin; Nick and Sam Joslin; Madeline Joslin) and 4½ great-grandchildren. Mary’s world-class caregivers are now also true and permanent members of the Joslin family: Grace Mitchell, Sandra Jordan, Tammy Pulley and Owen Kapanga.
A memorial service for Mary will be held at Christ Episcopal Church, the parish she and William loved, on Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 11:00 A.M. Immediately afterward, the family will host a reception at the Joslin home and garden, 2431 West Lake Drive in Raleigh. Please come!
Memorials may be made in Mary Joslin’s name to the City of Oaks Foundation, Inc., 222 W. Hargett St., Ste. 608, Raleigh, NC 27601, or to Kalmia Gardens of Coker College, 1624 W. Carolina Ave., Hartsville, SC 29550. Or you may simply read a Molière play, listen to J.S. Bach, admire a Monet, or sit outside on a summer day and let white clouds moving across a blue sky remind you of how lucky we are to live for a brief time on this beautiful earth.
Arrangements by Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, Saint Mary’s St., Raleigh.
Published in The News & Observer from June 18 to June 19, 2016– See more at: Raleigh News and Observer – Memorials