Joan W. Smutko, 84, longtime Lewiston resident, passed away on November 12, 2020. Born in Niagara Falls, she was the daughter of the late Stephen J. and Olga [Borak] Wieloszynski.
Joan was a musician, a labor union officer, but above all, a teacher. Though she left her full-time position to raise her three children, she never stopped teaching. Local history was a favorite topic as she shuttled her kids around in her red Econoline van. A voracious reader, she shared her love of books and words. When there was a question about a term, that meant a trip to the dictionary to look it up together — a dictionary so enormous and heavy, it sat on its own dedicated desk. School holidays meant trips to museums in Buffalo and Toronto. Every day was a learning opportunity.
Once the kids were older, Joan returned to working as a violinist and violist. She was a member of area orchestras, chamber music groups, and led her own string quartet. Joan was a member of the pit orchestras for performances at Artpark, Melody Fair, and other venues around the area. She was an active member and officer of her local musician’s union and local arts councils.
Joan also returned to teaching music, a vocation she started in her youth while working in the family business, Wieloszynski Music on Niagara Street. Joan and her brother Spike instructed students not much younger than themselves. She returned to teaching violin students privately in the mid-1970s in her home studio and volunteered as an assistant when Lew-Port started its elementary orchestra program. Christmas music started early in the Smutko house, as students began in September to learn their parts for holiday concerts.
Joan was devoted to her pets, welcoming a succession of beloved German shepherds and rescue cats into her life.
She was an incredibly patient and gentle grandmother, and made sure the emphasis on learning carried on to the next generation.
She loved traveling with her husband, accompanying him on work trips to the Middle East, Asia, and throughout North America, where they enjoyed immersing themselves in the culture and food. Vacations saw Joan and George jetting off to island destinations, beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, and family holidays in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Joan is survived by her husband of 62 years Dr. George E. Smutko, her children Kurt (Noreen) Smutko of North Carolina, Liz (Jerry Steinbrink) Smutko of Pennsylvania, and John (Gayun) Chan-Smutko of Massachusetts, three grandchildren Casey, Jack, and Nick, as well as generations of her violin students.
She was the sister of the late Stephen J. "Spike" Wieloszynski.
Due to the risk posed by the highly contagious Covid-19 virus, burial will be private and a memorial service will be arranged at a later date when it is safe again to gather.
Donations can be made in her name to Stella Niagara Education Park, 4421 Lower River Road, Stella Niagara, NY 14144 or by visiting paypal.me/stellaniagara, or the Lewiston Public Library.
To send flowers to Joan's family, please visit our floral store.