December 8, 1935 – December 21, 2020
Freeport, ME- JoAnn Clayton Townsend, former director of the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) at the National Academy of Sciences, an American Institute of and Astronautics (AIAA) fellow, an abstract artist, a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, passed away on December 21st, 2020. She had just celebrated her 85th birthday. JoAnn was preceded in death by her father, James William Woolley Cleveland and mother, Rachel Blanch Mary McLaughlin, and spouses John David Clayton and Dr. John William Townsend, Jr. She is succeeded by her cousin Bernard Lynch, her daughter Rachel Diana Clayton, son David Edward Clayton, his wife Martha, and her three grandchildren Abigail, Margaret, Jack, and great-grandson Sasha.
Born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, JoAnn later moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she was raised in extreme poverty by her single mother. She received her BA at the University of Tulsa on a full scholarship and pledged into Phi Beta Kappa. JoAnn met Tulsa Daily World News reporter John Clayton in 1954, and they were married on February 19th, 1955. In 1957, John was offered a job working for the United States Information Service, a division of the State Department’s Foreign Service. Between 1957-1974, JoAnn traveled with John around the world, including posts in Jordan, India, Iran, Bulgaria, Israel, and Turkey.
During their time in Israel, JoAnn attended the Ulpan Hebrew language training for immigrants. She also worked on several Archaeological digs, and began collecting ancient oil lamps. While posted in Turkey, JoAnn took horseback riding lessons and piloting lessons. She was president of the Turkish-American Women’s Society for a year, and the following year, she and a friend established the first English language travel magazine in Turkey.
Amidst John and JoAnn’s travels, JoAnn gave birth to two children - Rachel Diana on April 29, 1959 in Madras, India, and David Edward on October 23, 1962 in Tehran, Iran. In 1963, John, JoAnn and their two children returned to Washington, D.C. for John’s next assignment. While in Washington, JoAnn worked as the personal assistant to the Foreign Secretary of National Academy of Sciences until John received his next appointment to Sofia, Bulgaria in 1966.
In 1974, JoAnn and her family returned to the United States, and JoAnn worked for several years on Capitol Hill as Legislative Assistant to Congressmen Berkeley Bedell from Iowa, Charles Whalen of Ohio, and Matthew Rinaldo from New Jersey. On June 17, 1977 her first husband, John Clayton, passed away and JoAnn decided to re-join the staff of the National Academy of Sciences. One of her first assignments was as a staff officer for a committee writing a report for NASA on President Reagan’s decision to cancel the U.S. portion of the NASA-ESA International Solar Polar Mission (ISPM). This began her fascination with the space program. She continued to pursue a Master’s Degree at George Washington University while working for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Within a few years of completing her degree in Space Policy she rose to become the Director of the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board at the NAS.
JoAnn’s contributions to the U.S. space program were recognized by her peers when she was elected as a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in 2003, a prestigious distinction. Women in Aerospace presented her with its Outstanding Achievement Award in 1991 and Outstanding Member Award in 1997. She was a member of the International Institute of Space Law and editor of its annual proceedings for many years. She also was a member of the International Academy of Astronautics.
While working at ASEB she met Dr. John (Jack) William Townsend, a former Director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, a Fairchild Industries Vice President and also a Fellow of the AIAA, making Jack and JoAnn the first married couple of the AIAA to be so honored. They were married on September 17, 1996.
JoAnn retired from ASEB in 1997 to pursue her dream of becoming an artist, another field in which she excelled. She was accepted into the prestigious Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA where she painted and exhibited. After Dr. Jack Townsend’s passing in 2011, she and her daughter, Diana, moved to Maine to be close to her son, David, and his family in March of 2012.
JoAnn continued to paint and showcase her art while in Maine. She also traveled extensively for pleasure with her daughter, Diana. JoAnn especially enjoyed her time living close to her family, spending time with her grandchildren, and welcoming her great-grandson into the world in 2018.
Please make any memorial gifts in the form of contributions in JoAnn’s name to the Freeport Fire/Rescue Department at 4 Main St., Freeport, ME 04032, who kindly aided her in her final years.
Please visit www.lindquistfuneralhome.com to sign JoAnn’s online guest book.
January 2, 2021
JoAnn was a good friend for decades and an inspiration to me. I have wonderful memories of our girls' weekends at Chincoteague, many many birthday parties, and a few rides with her in her Porsche sports car (plus much more). What an amazing life she led! What an amazing woman!
December 31, 2020
I consider JoAnn to be one of my best friends. We go way back to our days in Tabriz, Iran. We both made the best of our lives there and supported each other in personal loss. We continued our friendship through the years in Washington, D.C and Maine.
My heart goes out to David and Diana, JoAnn's loving and supportive children.
December 30, 2020
JoAnn and I worked together at the National Academies for many years. I grew to respect her sound professional judgement and to appreciate her and Jack Townsend as good friends.
I recall an evening that my wife and I were invited to dinner at JoAnn's and Jack's place. JoAnn, always of generous spirit, said to bring the kids. Back then our four were a lively bunch, all under the age of 8. Not to worry, said JoAnn, just have them bring their swim suits.
And so we did. Turned out that Jack and JoAnn had an indoor hot tub. The children were mesmerized by the notion of an indoor "pool" and were thoroughly entertained.
On the way home, our daughter (then 3) asked if she could come back tomorrow. Now a lawyer in New York City, she still remembers the kind lady who let her play in the indoor pool. And so do I.
We can never repay the good things that have been done for us. But we can surely pass them on.
December 29, 2020
Joann and I worked together during her time with Congressman Berkley Bedell. I remember her as a smart and delightful co-worker. I stayed on with Bedell until he retired in 1987, and we remained in touch periodically for several years. Typical of Washington life our contact ebbed by the early '90's, but I'm delighted to learn from her obituary that she had such an interesting and successful life. I especially regret not finding her at the Torpedo Factory as I shopped Alexandria often and would have been thrilled to have yet another interesting and fun visit with her. My deepest sympathy to her family, Nancy Payne
December 29, 2020
So sad to see dear JoAnn's obit in the Washington Post today. She was a kind and hospitable friend to my husband Charles and me since we met in Jerusalem in the early 1990s, where we served with Diana at the US Consulate General. We will always remember staying with Joann at her home in Cabin John in December 1992 and helping to put up her Christmas tree. We are grateful to have had a beautiful visit with her in Maine in summer 2019. Our love to dearest Diana and all the family-----
December 29, 2020
I just read with sorrow Joann's obituary in the newspaper. I was pleased to be in touch with her for a time and glad that we could reach out from a distance. My condolences to the entire family. With sympathy. Margie Burns
December 26, 2020
Prayers for you and yours. I am sorry for your loss. Losing a parent is painful You think you are prepared for it until it happens. My heart goes out to you. Miss y’all so much. Stay safe. Love y’all.
December 25, 2020
Aunt JoAnn was a lovely person. She was kind, generous and loving. We will always have fond memories of our time with her.
John & Barb Crumb
December 24, 2020
We are so saddened about the loss of your Mother. We may be separated by many miles but not in our thoughts and prayers. Your Mother may be gone but her love and spirit are still with all of you.