Obituary: Joan Stack

Wed, 08/31/2011 - 1:34pm

Longtime Block Island visitor Joan Murphy Stack died peacefully on July 31 at her daughter Nina’s home in New Hope, Pa. A well-loved broadcaster and active community volunteer, she was known for her extraordinary wit, intelligence and insight.

Joan first began visiting Block Island in 1966 and went on to enjoy every July on-island for the next 20 years. When her daughter Nina moved full-time to the island in 1997, Joan would visit often throughout the year, adoring the island in every season. From her first summer visit through her last in 2008 right up until her death, Block Island remained a sanctuary of peace, light and beauty to her.

Joan had a skill to turn any experience into a gracious gathering — even the boat ride from Pt. Judith. In the 1970s, she turned her love of cooking into a popular program for WBUX Radio. Thoughts for Food began as a daily five-minute interview with local chefs and included her signature signoff at the end of each program: Have a delicious day!

Subsequently, she began to broadcast a talk show from the corner table of a renowned Pennsylvania restaurant, Conti’s Cross Keys Inn. Joan’s daily half-hour program was a hit and soon The Joan Stack Show was attracting well-known guests from far and wide.

In its early days, publicists would book their celebrity guests on The Mike Douglas Show — taped in Philadelphia — and then bring them to Doylestown for a live luncheon interview on The Joan Stack Show. Through the years, Joan’s “chat show from a bar” featured memorable conversations with many famous people, including James Michener, Eli Wallach, Margaret Whiting, Nathan Lane, Edward Albee, Helen Hayes, George Plimpton, Gloria Steinheim, George Nakashima, Maureen Dowd and many others. Recordings of some of her interviews have been admitted into the National Museum of Broadcasting.

Joan became a prominent member of American Women in Radio and Television, serving as chairwoman of the Philadelphia chapter and of the Philadelphia Broadcasting Pioneers. She moved to Lambertville, N.J., in the 1980s, living along the river, and was active on community boards. She also went on to produce a series of oral documentaries for the Library of Congress that can still be heard today.

Joan lived an active, warm and fulfilling life. Though she struggled for more than 20 years with Parkinson’s disease, her engaging wit never dimmed. She is survived by her son Patrick Stack, a writer and film producer, and his daughters, Emma and Winnie; son Timothy, a writer, actor and TV producer and his wife, Jano, his daughter, Murphy, and son, Doyle; and daughter, Nina, former director of the Block Island Tourism Council and now a nonprofit CEO, and her partner, Bob Gould.

The family will hold a memorial celebration in October. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to either Passage Theatre Company in Trenton, N.J., or Compassion & Choices, a national organization that advocates for end-of-life choices.