Joan Anne Gilroy

September 21, 1936April 13, 2023
Obituary of Joan Anne Gilroy
Joan Anne Gilroy, 86, of Halifax, passed away peacefully April 13, 2023, at the Dartmouth General Hospital. Born in Springhill, Nova Scotia, Joan was the daughter of the late Ruth (Graham) and Aubrey Gilroy, and the loving sister of Robert, David, Carolyn, and Vivian. Joan’s early education took place in one- and two-room schoolhouses until she moved to Truro to complete high school. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Dalhousie University in 1956, followed by a Master of Social Work in 1958 from the Maritime School of Social Work, which was then associated with the University of King's College. She returned to the School as a field instructor and Director of Admissions between periods of employment as a social worker in Nova Scotia and Montreal. In 1969, Joan joined the faculty of the Maritime School of Social Work at Dalhousie University, and in 1990 was the first woman to be appointed Director of the School, a position she held until her retirement in 1998. During her tenure she took two study leaves, earning a Master of Arts from the Institute of Criminology at the University of Toronto in 1974, and began her doctoral studies between 1980-1983 in the Department of Sociology in Education, also at the University of Toronto. She returned to her doctoral work in Toronto after her retirement. Unfortunately, her studies were interrupted by a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. Joan was an activist, feminist, and social worker whose career straddled the community and the academy. Her teaching, research, professional activities, and community work were focused on children, women, and feminist social work practice. Joan was a founding member for the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers, a founding member and chair of the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work Women’s Caucus, and chair of the Women’s Caucus of the International Association of Schools of Social Work. Her contributions to social justice were recognized by both her peers and the wider community: among other honours, she has received YMCA’s Women’s Recognition (1993); the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers’ Freda Vickery Award (1997); Certificate of Commendation from Canada’s Governor General (1997); Dalhousie University’s A. Gordon Archibald Award (2002); the Canadian Association of Social Workers Distinguished Service Award (2005); and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012). Joan was also an active supporter of many local and national organizations, including several arts, health, and educational institutions, especially the Dalhousie University School of Social Work Alumni Association, the New Democratic Party, and Parkinson Canada. She was an avid fundraiser for the organizations and causes closest to her heart. Joan was so many things to so many people. To her colleagues and students, she was a dedicated and respected social worker, educator, scholar, mentor, and activist. Her steadfast commitment to social justice was courageous and inspiring. To her treasured friends, she was a trusted confidante, an adventurous travel companion, and a profound source of joy. Joan was fortunate to have many deep and long-lasting friendships, which she cherished, nurtured, and enjoyed for the duration of her life. She particularly delighted in spending time with friends at various cottages across her beloved province, especially if there was an opportunity for a swim, a delicious meal made with local ingredients, and deep conversation. Finally, to Joan’s family, she was everything – an unconditionally loving, generous, supportive, and comforting presence in the lives of her sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Joan’s curiosity about and enthusiasm for her family knew no bounds and both were evident in every interaction she had with us, whether in person, over the phone, or by email. Joan loved to hear every detail, no matter how small. Her interests were wide-ranging, and, as a result, she relished discussing a variety of topics, including the interests and activities of her friends and family, global affairs, local issues, arts and literature, travel, and even sports! It is proving difficult to find the words to accurately describe Joan, but as a dear friend said, she was a “rare jewel” of a person, and our hearts are broken that she is no longer with us. Joan leaves behind her sisters, Carolyn (Paul) and Vivian (Rick); her brother Robert (Helen); and many nieces and nephews, their partners and children. She was predeceased by her parents, Ruth and Aubrey Gilroy, brother David and sister-in-law Mary Gilroy. A private graveside service will be held at a later date. If you would like to make a donation in Joan’s memory, contributions to Parkinson Canada ( would be very much appreciated. The family would like to thank Dr. O’Neill, the staff of the Dartmouth General Hospital (5 East), The Berkeley Pepperell community, and her loving and dedicated caregivers, Maria, Alma, and Krish.

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