Cover photo for Joan Kraft's Obituary
Joan Kraft Profile Photo

Joan Kraft

July 16, 1924 — December 23, 2015

Joan Dorothy Auchter Kraft died Dec. 23, 2015, at her home in Bethlehem after a period of declining health. She was 91 years old and was surrounded by family in her final hours.

She had been married to the late R. Wayne Kraft Jr. and she was a pioneer in church and civic affairs in the Bethlehem area before her health limited her activities in recent years.

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on July 16, 1924, Joan was the eldest child of the late Joseph Aloysius Auchter and Dorothy Mueller Auchter. She lived in Wauwatosa and in Port Edwards, Wisconsin, and then starting in 1940, Haddonfield, New Jersey.

Though she entered Haddonfield Memorial High School as a junior, she was valedictorian, secretary of the student body, active in the Junior Red Cross and president of the drama club, among other activities. She appeared opposite her future husband in the senior class production of “June Mad” - she recalled their experience in the play in her inscription in his yearbook. She also was co-editor of the school newspaper; Wayne Kraft was assistant editor.

She attended the College of New Rochelle and graduated from Cornell University in 1946. She was president of Alpha Phi sorority. Her degree was in the emerging field of home economics. She taught for a while at Connecticut College for Women in the late 1940s.

Joan married the love of her life, R. Wayne Kraft Jr., on June 19, 1948 after his service in the U.S. Army and subsequent graduation from Lehigh University. Her brother, John, has said that “one of the nicest things God ever did was to bring these two together” and they were to be an effective team in family, church and civic activities for more than 45 years.

The family resided in New Jersey, Michigan and Connecticut before moving to Bethlehem in 1962. There they built the house on Bierys Bridge Road where she resided for the rest of her life.

During the 1950s and 1960s, her primary responsibility was rearing four children -- at one point, she had three boys under the age of 4. But she always bristled at the label “housewife”. If pressed for an occupation, she would say “wife and mother”, and informally add “and chauffeur, and cook, and cleaner, and nurse, and Den Mother (later, Brownie Leader), and ”

Wayne Kraft was the former New Jersey Zinc Professor of Metallurgy and Materials Science at Lehigh University, and in his later years, an adjunct professor of philosophy and theology at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales (now De Sales University) and an ordained permanent deacon in the Catholic Church.

In the latter role, he was assigned to St. Marys Church in Catasauqua, where Joan and Wayne worked together to lead the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) program. Wayne died in 1994. Joan continued with RCIA at St. Marys for a period of time after his death.

The Krafts were active members of St. Annes Church in Bethlehem, where Joan was a leader of song, was one of the first women lectors and Eucharistic Ministers, and served on the pastoral team in the 1970s. They both were members of the parish retreat team in the 1980s. Joan also served on the parish council, was director of the RCIA program at St. Annes and helped found the bereavement committee (which she started before she herself was a widow and continued serving on after Waynes death). She taught CCD at St. Annes for many years, and was active in settling Vietnamese refugees hosted by the parish.

Joan helped initiate St Anne's involvement with the ecumenical soup kitchen at New Bethany Ministries in South Bethlehem, coordinating volunteers from the parish every fourth Thursday. This timing also ensured an annual commitment to cooking, staffing and serving Thanksgiving dinner to multitudes, always insisting on having the turkeys carved fresh for the attendees (Wayne helped with this part but otherwise had a distinctly subordinate role - he was fairly clueless in the kitchen). She also tried to ensure the volunteer staff would dress up so that the dinner took on its appropriate special holiday atmosphere for those being served. Then she would head home to cook and serve Thanksgiving dinner to her own family. Joan continued leading the St. Annes team at the soup kitchen into her eighties.

Since 1972, Joan and Wayne were active in the Cursillo movement in the Diocese of Allentown, serving as team leaders and continuing with weekly small group meetings for decades.

They were also regular retreatants at the Jesuit Center at Wernersville, PA. The Jesuit community there gave Joan their Ignatius the Pilgrim Award in 2008 after more than 30 years of faithful attendance at annual and seasonal retreats, and because of her support for the work of the center.

After her children were grown, Joan Kraft returned to school, studying Death and Dying at Allentown College and taking the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program at St. Lukes Hospital in Fountain Hill. Starting in the early 1980s, she became a volunteer associate chaplain at St. Lukes, the first Catholic woman to serve in that role. She ministered on the cardiac and oncology wards, and also help train new chaplains as part of the CPE team. She would continue with this pastoral ministry for more than 25 years, although when she turned 80, she turned over the over-night on-call stints to younger co-workers.

She served on the advisory board of the Catholic Social Bureau of the Allentown Diocese in the 1970s, and later on the board of directors of the Catholic Social Agency in the 1980s. She and Wayne participated in various parish level education activities of the bureau.

She was also active in Pax Christi, the Catholic peace fellowship, Church Women United, American Association of University Women, the League of Women Voters, the Jewish-Christian Dialogue of the Lehigh Valley, the Green Circle, the Gourmet Club, and Another Mother for Peace during the Vietnam War. She helped with Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts, and various school-related activities of her children. She was a volunteer for Meals on Wheels, and taught Christian education at Wiley House for several years in the 1970s.

In 1980, Allentown College awarded her an honorary doctorate for her many church and civic activities. When the college similarly honored Wayne a few years later, she liked to tease Wayne that she was first. In 2004, she was awarded the De Sales Medal for support of the school, by then renamed De Sales University.

Joan enjoyed traveling and visited more than 20 countries, mostly in South America and Europe. Some of this travel was on lecture tours with Wayne, and then after his death, with friends or her son, Kevin. Joan, Wayne and their daughter, Ellen, resided in Oxford, England for four months in 1972 while Wayne was a visiting lecturer.

She loved the outdoors, always had bird feeders at home, and participated in the annual Christmas Bird Count for many years. She tolerated camping because Wayne and the children loved it. Joan also enjoyed gardening, flower arranging and singing. She was an excellent cook.

She is survived by three sons, Steven W. Kraft of Bethlehem, married to Margot R. K. Hillman; Brian J. Kraft of Bethlehem; and the Rev. T. Kevin Kraft, with the Dominican Friars in Nairobi, Kenya; a daughter, Ellen M. Kraft of Bethlehem and Brooksville, Florida, married to Vincent F. Brugger; a grandson, Benjamin J. Kraft of Mountain View, California; a brother, John F. Auchter of Lake Mary, Florida, married to Jane Guthrie Auchter; and seventeen nieces and nephews, many grandnieces and grandnephews and several cousins. In addition to her parents and husband, she was pre-deceased by a brother, Thomas J. Auchter, late of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, who was married to the late Lou Brown Auchter, and a sister, Judith A. Pfarr, whose husband, Raymond L. Pfarr, lives in Milwaukee. Judie Pfarr died on the same date in 2011.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 10 a.m. at St. Annes Church, 450 E. Washington Ave, Bethlehem, PA 18017.

Viewings will be held from 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, December 29, 2015 and 8:30-9:30a.m., Wednesday, at Connell Funeral Home, 245 E. Broad St, Bethlehem Pa 18018. Burial to follow at Holy Saviour Cemetery.

Memorials may be sent to New Bethany Ministries, 337 Wyandotte St., Bethlehem, PA 18015; Dominican Friars - Kenya, c/o Dominican Mission Office, 141 E 65th St., New York, NY 10065 ; or Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 2811 Moyers Ln., Reading, PA 19605.

Cemetery
Holy Saviour Cemetery
2575 Linden St.
Bethlehem PA 18017
US

Viewing
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Connell Funeral Home, Inc.
245 East Broad St.
Bethlehem PA 18018
US
610-868-8531

Viewing
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
8:30 AM - 9:30 AM
Connell Funeral Home, Inc.
245 East Broad St.
Bethlehem PA 18018
US
610-868-8531

Mass of Christian Burial
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
10:00 AM
St. Anne's Catholic Church
450 Washington Ave.
Bethlehem PA 18017
US

Funeral HomeConnell Funeral Home, Inc.
245 East Broad St.
Bethlehem PA - 18018
US
610-868-8531

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Joan Kraft, please visit our flower store.

Photo Gallery

Guestbook

Visits: 2

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors