In her late teens and early twenties, Joan Grishkot worked summers from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. as a waitress at the Dock and Dine restaurant at Hague, on Lake George, to earn money for college.
Around midnight, Walter, her beau and later husband, would show up at the restaurant for some conversation and to help Joan fill sugar bowls and salt and pepper shakers.
Their love, then and for about five decades to follow, exemplified the Garden of Eden-type abundance of sharing and laughter that is a rare gift.
Joan, who died July 8, is a role model for young women who aim to crack the glass ceiling.
Joan, who Walter and others called Joanie, served on boards of 28 regional health organizations during and after her career as Warren County Director of Public Health.
Yet she still found time to support and actively participate in her husband’s endeavors, such as The Adirondack Balloon Festival.
Walter, around 2010, said it best: “Without Joanie — I’ll tell you — we wouldn’t have a Balloon Festival. Because she’s smart.”
When Walter got to the point where he could no longer drive, Joan chauffeured him around to call on businesses for sponsorships.
After Walter’s death in 2011, Joan continued to make calls on her own, and she tirelessly raised money for scholarships in Walter’s honor for college students studying aviation, aeronautics and space science.
Joan took great joy in presenting the scholarships, and her interest in the recipients didn’t stop with the check passing.
She would keep in touch with parents of the students, and would brag in the community about scholarship recipients’ on-going achievements.
A ballooning metaphor aptly defines the marriage of Walter and Joan.
Walter’s enthusiasm was the propane that propelled the marriage
As Joan told it around 2010, Walter would always have a funny story to lift her spirits when she came home from a frenzied day running the county Health Department.
Joan’s practical nature and organizational skills were the tethers that kept their marriage grounded.
Those skills carried over into Joan’s professional life, such as when, as board president, she steered Moses Ludington Nursing Home and Hospital through a time of crisis in the 1990s, or, in 1988, when Joan brought Miss America Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, a registered nurse, to Glens Falls to kick off National Home Health Care Week.
Joan would laugh at a running joke I would tell in recent years at Adirondack Balloon Festival launches.
When wind would threaten, I would quip, “That’s just Walter jumping up and down in heaven because he’s excited that it’s Balloon Festival time. Would someone tell him to stop that!”
Now that Joan is in heaven with Walter to tether that enthusiasm, perhaps balloons will be able to fly in Glens Falls and Queensbury even more frequently each fall.
Click here to read my most recent previous Adirondack Balloon Festival history post.