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Democratic organizer Joan Joseph, 1945-2009

by George Bennett | September 23rd, 2009
Democractic activist Joan Joseph poses in her Lake Worth office before the 2008 Democratic National Convention, where she served as a delegate. (Cydney Scott/Palm Beach Post)

Democractic activist Joan Joseph poses in her Lake Worth office before the 2008 Democratic National Convention, where she served as a delegate. (Cydney Scott/Palm Beach Post)

UPDATE: Democratic activist and prolific lensman Rick Neuhoff has posted a large collection of photos of Joan Joseph here. Also, a memorial page has been set up here.

Joan Joseph, a Jupiter resident who was a key political operative for candidates from Barack Obama to West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel, died early today of cancer.

Mrs. Joseph, 64, was a go-to figure for Democratic candidates seeking to build a grass-roots organization in Florida. She was a paid staffer in Palm Beach County for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, then was the statewide coordinator of volunteers for John Kerry’s 2004 campaign.

When Barack Obama launched his presidential bid in early 2007 as a decided underdog, Mrs. Joseph was a key early organizer in Florida.

“She was one of the first people that we went to for Obama” in Florida, said Kirk Wagar, who was the Obama campaign’s Florida finance chairman. Obama’s first major Florida event, a March 2007 “low-dollar” fund-raiser that drew about 1,000 people to the Palm Beach County Convention Center, was largely put together by Mrs. Joseph, Wagar said.

“I don’t know that there were many people more important than her…in the whole state,” Wagar said.

Mrs. Joseph was rewarded for her efforts by being tapped by the Obama campaign as one of Florida’s 27 Electoral College members.

“When we named those people, we wanted people who really made a meaningful difference,” said Steve Schale, who was the Obama campaign’s Florida director. Schale described Mrs. Joseph as an “indispensable” figure in Florida.

Aside from presidential campaigns, Mrs. Joseph also played a key statewide role in Rod Smith’s 2006 bid for governor and was a top adviser for Frankel’s 2003 and 2007 mayoral campaigns.

“She was really one of the dearest people I’ve ever known. She was certainly a big part of my life,” Frankel said this morning.

“Grass-roots organizing is what she was known for. She was also one of the smartest political minds in Florida,” said Eric Jotkoff, who worked with Mrs. Joseph on three campaigns and is now spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party.

Jotkoff attributed Mrs. Joseph’s success to “her true understanding of politics and her incredible network of people, just how warm and great a person she was — that’s why so many people were loyal to her.”

Mrs. Joseph grew up in New York and earned a Master’s degree in social work from Rutgers University. She held jobs working the mentally disabled and elderly and with the North Shore Animal League in New York. She also worked on political campaigns in the Empire State, including two of Mario Cuomo’s gubernatorial runs and former President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 reelection bid.

“Jimmy Carter actually called our house and asked her to work on the campaign,” recalled Stu Joseph, her husband of 39 years.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Joseph is survived by twin daughters and three grandchildren. A funeral is planned for Friday at 10 a.m. at the Aycock Funeral Home in Jupiter.

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23 Responses to “Democratic organizer Joan Joseph, 1945-2009”

  1. Diana Demarest Says:

    Joan, you will be sorely missed. You are one great lady.

  2. Jackson Says:

    I must say I am in shock. Joan was a great lady and I cherish my few brief times with her.

  3. Pat Emmert Says:

    Joan, your friends at the AFL-CIO will miss you very much.

  4. Allan H. Says:

    argh. That’s all I’ve been able to come up with all day.
    Joan will truly be missed.

  5. Sharon White Says:

    I am shocked as well. Such sad news. We will miss you Joan.
    I can’t think of running a FL campaign without you!
    Thank you for all you’ve done for us!

  6. BunnySteinman Says:

    I will miss you Joan. We worked together
    on many campaigns and precinct organizing in PBC. Your friends of The
    Democratic Club Of Greater Boynton will
    miss you,too.
    Bunny Steinman

  7. Patty O'Connor Says:

    With sadness in our hearts, the Democratic Women’s Club of Palm Beach County celebrates the dedication and accomplishments of an advocate for all, especially for women’s issues. To Joan, for sharing her exuberance and excellence in all things Democratic. Patty O’Connor

  8. Matthew McWatters Says:

    I am so sorry to hear of this. Your family is in my thoughts.

  9. Ellie Whittey Says:

    Joan started my political adventures.
    I am sure she is running a campaign
    right now. The West Palm Beach Club
    will miss Joan and her winning ways. Rest in peace.

  10. Marla Gale Says:

    As a fellow Social Worker, Joan embodied the best of the our Professional values; justice, equality and fighting for those who could not fight for themselves. Joan will be missed.

  11. Michael A. Rodriguez Says:

    I cannot believe she is gone. That laugh . . . that energy will be sorely missed. Our prayers and thoughts are with Stu and your children.

    Que en paz descanse, Joan!

  12. Hillary Keyes Says:

    I’m just stunned. What a loss. I worked with Joan on several campaigns, and the Democratic Party will not be the same without her energy. Stu and family, you are in my heart.

  13. mike coleman Says:

    Reading this article gave me much insight into Joan’s life as an American Patriot.
    This nation is blessed with millions of us, who, have the inclination to make our country into an even better place.
    Women Patriots like Joan, rise above those millions, who, “just have the inclination”. Joan was dedicated and tireless in her efforts to acheive that goal of making her country a better place for all.
    She will be missed by many who knew her.
    Her efforts and service to the voters of Palm Beach County will be missed by many.

  14. Cary Nation Says:

    A rare person gives this much to their community and stands so tall for what they believe in. Joan was that person. What she leaves is the memory and the awakening in each of us that we too can pick up the ball and run…..even in the most difficult times. My condolences to the family and the community.

  15. Jackie & Lowell Jones Says:

    Sorry to hear this. Florida politics will miss her. She was nice, friendly and a helpful person in our Democratic endeavors, in the 13th Congressional district.

  16. Diana Hatsis Says:

    Joan was a powerhouse in our community and a driving force in our Democratic Party. Joan will be sorely missed by many people. I consider myself blessed to have met Joan and been able to work beside her. She was a wonderful mentor and friend. Our thoughts are with Stu and Joan’s family through this difficult time. – Diana & Rick Neuhoff

  17. Nick Tilsner Says:

    I will miss Joan So much. I pledge to help elect Democrats and fight for progressive principles in her honor.
    My heart goes out to Stu and the family. No words can express how much so many of us will miss her.

  18. Sheldon Glassner Says:

    Joan word was good as gold, in the political
    world of today that says a lot! A big thank you for introducing my family to then Candidated Barack Obama and all of the Democrats. Stu thank you for sharing Joan with all of America we’re all better for it.

  19. Harriet Lerman Says:

    Joan was a good friend and I remember when I ran against Warren Newell the meeting and lunch we had and her great advise. Plus the times we checked on our good friend who was ill Judy Lelvow and met her for dinner. Joan is going to be missed and a great lost to this Democratic community,and to her family. Joan you are one in a million. RIP

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  21. Allie Biggs Says:

    I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the family of Joan Joseph. My prayers are with you all at this time. May God give you strength to go through this. She will surely be missed for the outstanding works she has done.

  22. Allie Biggs Says:

    I think the the story is beautiful. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of recognizing a deserving person’s labor and contribution to society , especially in this kind of situation.
    Also, this help the family to be able to cope with their pain in a special way.

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