Joan Annmarie Currie
July 1, 1964, Kingston, Jamaica - April 23, 2021, New York, New York
Her megawatt smile was the first thing that people noticed about Joan Currie, a brilliant banking executive, dear friend and treasured family member known for her work ethic, loyalty and her light.
"Joan's smile was bright, warm and welcoming, and could light up a ballroom," said Nicole Russell, her younger sister. "She was a gentle but strong woman who I liked to call the silent warrior."
Joan, of Arverne, New York, died April 23, 2021, at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York, after a seven-and-a-half year struggle with colon cancer. She was 56 and had spent her career in finance, working up to three weeks before her passing.
"Joan was hard-working, very dedicated and very sweet," said Lia Koopman, managing director at the Bank of New York Mellon, where Joan worked as a director in charge of a trust unit. Koopman was Joan's boss, and the two worked together for 29 years, starting in 1992 at U.S. Trust before moving together to Chase Manhattan Bank then finally settling at the Bank of New York.
"Joan spent a lot of time making sure that everything was accurate and client-focused," Koopman continued. "She was exacting and had so many great traits, like understanding and care, that she modeled for her employees."
The traits that employers and employees alike valued - including her integrity, wit and heart - also are the ones that her friends treasured.
"I remember when I was dealing with something with the health of my daughter, and I was stressed with finances, and Joan said, 'I can help you with that,'" said Glendora Henry, who met Joan in the late 1980s and became lifelong friends.
"She was an intern when we met and we were working in bearer bonds," Henry continued. "And there was a group of us who were all tight, and we adopted Joanie like a little sister. She was our heart and soul."
"Joanie was always soft, peaceful and calm and she had that little grin, ha-ha, a laughter that was soothing," added longtime friend Vivian Daniels. "I remember we were all stuck in a snowstorm in Albany, and [friend] Lorraine [Gordon] was having hot flashes, and we were all just laughing. And Joan was in the middle of all of it."
Joan Annmarie Currie followed big brother Wayne Currie as the second of two children that came of the union of Wilfred Currie, a cabinetmaker and deacon in Jamaica, and Dorothy Folkes Russell, who retired after a 35-year career in healthcare at NYU Langone Hospital.
Joan started showing her light on July 1, 1964, the day she was born at Jubilee Hospital in Kingston.
"From she was born I knew Joan was a special child, very special," said her mother, affectionately called Chancy by the family and now of Apopka, Florida. "She had this spirit, this blessedness, about her that she lived up to it all her life. I thank God for her."
As in many immigrant families, mother and daughter were separated for a period while mother established a beachhead, and life, in New York, where she immigrated in 1968 and later married Osmond Russell, a real estate entrepreneur.
But the distance never caused a rift in their relationship. In fact, mother and daughter were super-close, and created many special memories together, including in their travels to places such as London and Cuba. During one of their favorite trips, to Italy in 2019, they spent a spell getting lost in Rome.
"Because we were lost, we walked the whole city back to our hotel," Nicole said. "Joan loved to walk, and we went to all the landmarks and ate gelati and saw the sites."
Joan also walked in fundraisers for cancer and diabetes research and for a host of other causes in New York and elsewhere.
"We did the Million Woman March, and they were kinda cursing me out for organizing it, but Joan was there, and we all walked to show our strength," said Yvonne Robinson-Viaer, another longtime friend. "Joan was quiet and understated, but never let that fool you. That was part of her strength, she was a pillar of strength."
Joan's unflappability served her especially well in the high-pressure banking field that sometimes breaks people.
"She would keep everybody calm in high-stressed situations," Koopman said. "She didn't get anxious and that filtered down to the whole team. Joan was an asset to us, a value-add, and a go-to person for answers, especially with the nuts and bolts from a tech standpoint."
After graduating from Beach Channel High School, Joan studied finance and accounting at Baruch College. It was there that she interviewed for an internship at the Federal Reserve's Depository Trust Company that would set the course of her career and her friendships.
She met Henry, Robinson-Viaer, Daniels and others there.
Joan loved to garden - to making beautiful things grow. She also enjoyed cooking and culture. And she relished the chance to learn new things, especially about people from different walks of life.
"Jamaican culture was foundation for her but she appreciated different people's stories and heritage," Nicole said.
Her father, Wilfred Currie, and stepfather, Osmond Russell, both predeceased her.
Besides sister Nicole Russell, of Arverne, NY, mother Dorothy Russell, of Apopka, Fla., and brother Wayne (Tiffany) Currie of Boston, Mass., survivors include siblings Beres, Courtney, Devon, Stacyann and Dawn, all of Jamaica, plus aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and a host of loved ones.
Services will be held Sunday, May 2, at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 W. 76th St., New York, New York, 10023. 212-362-6600. Viewing at 2, and service at 4. A repast follows the service.
Interment will be Saturday, May 8, at Highland Memory Gardens, 3329 E Semoran Blvd, Apopka, Fla., 32703. A video recording of the service will also be available after the services for friends to view.
"As painful as it is to lose Joan, I know that she's in a good place," said her mother. "God giveth and God taketh away."
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