Violet Joan Akey
August 22, 1934 – March 22, 2021
Violet Joan Akey At the age of 86 went knocking on the pearly gates, found Gabriel, got the keys, painted them gold and festooned his horn with silk ribbon and a Picasso painted scarf. It was March 22, 2021, after breakfast and getting dressed for the day, in exquisite and particular Violet Joan fashion, she was only willing to go after getting ready for the day.
Born in Levelland, Texas in 1934 to Earl Wesley Garrison and Sarah Odlene Messick. The only girl of that union which included brothers Earl Joe Garrison, Robert Dean Garrison, and Jerry Mack Garrison all who preceded her in death. Violet Joan was known as Joan.
Raised on a West Texas cotton farm by devout Southern Baptists she made her way to Texas Tech University as a speech and communications major, as the prospect of majoring in dance and ultimately dancing as a profession with two Southern Baptists as parents was all but forbidden. At Texas Tech she met her future husband at a Kappa Kappa Gamma talent show rehearsal, and as the story goes, a tall, well groomed, shirtless man in white linen pants showed his face to the crowd - a man we now know as Charles Donald Akey. The screams of “AAAUUUUUUGA” from Joan were heard all the way down to Galveston.
And that, that began their adventure. The adventure that began in 1954 included 5 children, 11 grandkids, 1 great grandchild, 10 homes on 3 continents, a whole storage shed of vintage depression glass and two well stamped passports. She was a puck and prankster and a hide and seeker. Always always up for a way to conjure a good scare, always up for a game of gin rummy - where the winner gets all the orange slices, a game of bridge or a cocktail in the shady green of her backyard dotted corner to corner with hot pink impatients.
She was fireflys and ponytails, mint juleps and vodka shooters a manicured hand but with dirty trousers. A world of incongruities and opposites. She’d buy you your own because she did not want to share with you, but she wanted you to have what you needed, and mostly —she wanted you to have what you wanted. Generous to distraction and fiercely loyal. A formidable friend holder and a secret keeper. Her family pool of “found sisters and brothers” runs the width of her life, collecting pals and comrades like a friendly bounty hunter.
After 5 kids and many international moves later the family shifted from their home state of Texas and landed in Livonia, near Detroit, Michigan where her Army officer husband finished his Army carrer, hung up his khaki’s and went to work for Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. Joan began the next chapter as a mother of 5 young children in once again, a new city. A vibrant and flamboyant presence in Livonia Joan put all of their 5 kids through the public school system which included Hull Elementary, Frost middle school, Bentley and Churchill High Schools, the Livonia youth choirs, Ward church as a Sunday school teacher and Deacon.
As a student of Bonnie Prudent and Jack La Lane’s physical anatomy movement practices she began her own practice which spanned 20 years and over 3000 students - she was the Jane Fonda before Jane Fonda discovered her leg warmers. A twirl of red hair, poise, grit and formidable ambition.
A fixture on the local radio and talk shows as a motivational speaker on the subject of women’s health and well being - her motto: “Take care of you, get your body and your spirit in order first, then take care of the rest of your life, sometimes that includes the Husbands and children.” It would surprise no one that Joan was a feminist.
Joan had a wicked sweet tooth, cotton candy, Swedish fish, gummy bears, jolly ranchers, and the boozy ooze of a chocolate covered cherry cordial but also a crunchy granola, vegetable growing, compost turning yogurt making health nut who thrived on brown rice farm fresh eggs and broccoli. A political activist, she supported and ran campaigns for several of the local politicians including supporting her husband Charles Akey for his multiple runs and wins for the Livonia School board and the Wayne County School Board.
An avid supporter of all the arts, Joan supported the Bonstelle, Hilberry, Alex, Gem, Birmingham, The Fox, The College Conservatory of Musics Corbet theatres, all of the Chicago areas dinner theaters and every single touring show and new works festival that came through Detroit, Chicago and Austin. She also was a lifetime contributor and docent at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
In lieu of flowers we ask that donations be made in her name to Broadway Cares/Equity fights Aids which supports all the nations theatre’s from the 99 seat up to the big production houses. Any donation is encouraged and all monies are used to support the needs of the theatre community. You can follow the link here to donate in her honor. https://donate.broadwaycares.org/Violetjoanakey
Joans ashes will be interred at the Dallas Fort Worth Veterans Memorial cemetery following a memorial on May 8th at The Rolling hills funeral home in Dallas, Texas. Reception to follow.
Joan is survived by her husband Charles Donald, her children Steven, David, Bill, Sheri, Lisa and their spouses. Grandchildren include: Caitlin, Christopher, Micheal, Noah, Ashley, Nick, Matthew, Marcus, Michelle, Gracie and Django. And great grand child, Emma.
She was not tranquil, she was not still, but a lighting bolt of cascading immenseness that made the sun grow weary in her shade.
She will be missed in the forever, and in the always present sting of the empty. There will be no dwindling of her Opium scent, only rememberings of her cornflower eyes and her wide opened, full throated laugh echoing through the everything.
Next time you’re at the candy store, grab a bag of candied orange slices or Jordan almonds and think of Joan, most likely she’s got a bag of her own and is softly pitching pieces of orange scented sugar at your head from her shady corner of the sky.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” ― Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967
Celebration of Life
Rolling Oaks Funeral Home - Coppell Chapel
Violet Joan Akey
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