Joan Frances Stapleton

July 4, 1931February 21, 2021

On February 21, our beautiful Joanie joined her beloved husband, Bill, in heaven. Joanie had a happy, outgoing and effervescent spirit, whose smile and kindness could light up a room. Her greatest joy was in giving to and loving her family and many friends. She took particular pride in her grandchildren, who she continually said, "were perfect in every way." Texting and joking with her grandkids filled many happy hours.

Joanie was a proud firecracker baby, born July 4, 1931 in Sturgis, Michigan to Harriet (Smith) and Francis Lawler. She spent her early years in Coldwater, and then moved to Sturgis where she met Bill, the love of her life. She spent her childhood summers at her beloved Klinger Lake, making memories she treasured her entire life. She graduated from Sturgis High School in 1948, and then from MSU where she majored in Journalism and became a member of Pi Beta Phi Sorority. She spent time after college working in Chicago for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

She married William Stapleton in 1954. After accompanying her husband to Alaska during Bill's army career, they settled in Lansing, and then eventually East Lansing. Joanie devoted her time to raising her four children, but also loved serving her community. She held many volunteer positions in the community, in her children's schools, and her church. She particularly loved being a dedicated member of the Junior League of Lansing, where she served as president, and the Ingham County Bar Auxiliary. In later years, she merged her love of music and theater by becoming involved with Wharton Center's Inner Circle, where she held various positions, including president.

She had a very strong faith, and was a 55-year member of St. Thomas Catholic Church in East Lansing, where she spent many happy years singing in the choir. As a lover of classical music, she also spent many years in the MSU Choral Union, where the highlight for her, each year, was singling Handel's Messiah. After Bill’s death, she channeled her energies into starting a widows group at her beloved parish. In this group, which met monthly at Coral Gables, she reconnected with some old friends, and made several new ones. She valued these sharp, strong women and their afternoons of companionship. She was preceded in death by her husband of 60 years, William John Stapleton II and her sister in law, Rosemary Findlay. She is survived by her four children, Mary Kathleen Larsen (Jim); Christina Elizabeth Romano; William John Stapleton Ill (Robbie); and Ann Stapleton Jacob (Paul); eight grandchildren, Jacob Monestersky; Lena Romano; Joe (Kelsea), Drew and Tressa Stapleton; Caitlin (Paul Bradley), Molly and Kevin Jacob; and one beloved great grandchild, Rose Stapleton. She is also survived by twin sisters, Joyce Wood and Joy Lawler; and brother in law, Dr. Thomas R. Stapleton.

A private Mass of Christian burial will be held on Thursday, February 25 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church.

For those desiring, donations may be made in Joanie's honor to Wharton Center’s Seats 4 Kids fund, which provides complimentary tickets to performances for children and families who otherwise could not afford them, or to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish.

The family is being served by Gorsline Runciman, East Lansing. Condolences and memories may be shared at

Recorded video of service:


  • Private Funeral Mass

    Thursday, February 25, 2021



Joan Frances Stapleton

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Eleanor Marazita

February 25, 2021

Joan Francis Stapleton was a very great lady. She was our Junior League President and I traveled with her to Washington DC to represent women's issues. Joan was a dedicated, professional, enthusiastic and inspirational Jr. League president. She will forever be remembered in our Junior League hearts. With deep esteem for Joan, and deep condolences for her family, with God's love, the Marazita Family.
Eleanor and Philip Marazita
200 Albert Ave. #906
East Lansing, MI 48823

Gorsline Runciman

February 25, 2021

View recorded video of service at

Kevin Hamilton

February 25, 2021

My heart and prayers go out to Kathy and all of the Stapleton Family ... I have so many warm memories of Joan hosting us over the years ... what an incredible, insperational, kind and beautiful women ... she will be missed ... Kevin

Fabianos Candies

February 24, 2021

Sorry for your loss. We will miss her.

Dene Nichols

February 23, 2021

It was always such an exciting time when Aunt Joanie would come to visit! She would come to our house with her hair and outfit absolutely perfect, and we would just be getting out of the pool, and be absolutely dripping, and she wouldn’t care! She would pull us in and give us the biggest hugs, and make us feel so special. She never forgot to send a birthday card, no matter how old I got. I looked forward to that every year. Such a role model and a blessing to be able to call her my aunt.

Much love to you all. My thoughts , prayers, and love are with you!

Dene (Wood) Nichols

Jo Anne Nasti

February 22, 2021

I always felt so proud that we shared the same phoenetical name. She was one of the prettiest and most intelligent woman I’d ever known. Toni(Mom) always claimed her as her very best friend. We’re comforted to know you’re back in the arms of your beloved Bill.

Godspeed, Jo Anne Mackay Nasti (and Garry)

Patti Mackay Zavagnin

February 22, 2021

Your mother was my Grace Kelly! She was so beautiful but what I remember most, was her as a warm, loving and generous woman. In the summer of 1984, she offered to host a bridal shower for me around the backyard pool. It was lovely and 'lady like' and of course, she didn't miss a precious detail! My mom, my family and I felt very loved and were so grateful.

The entire Mackay family grieves with you as you say goodbye to Joan.
With love,
Patti and Mark Zavagnin

Toni Mackay

February 22, 2021

I have more fond memories of Joanie than I can possibly state.
My sympathy to each member of the family.

Neil Hanson

February 22, 2021

We are so sad to hear of Joan's passing. Her time with us was always so enjoyable and we have missed her ever since she moved. She touched all of us including our Children. God Bless you Joan.

Bernadette Leone

February 22, 2021

Oh how I loved your mom. She was a generous, gracious, lady who always seemed so genuinely pleased to see me (and I was at your house an awful lot) and curious about the goings on in my life. I will miss her.