Joan Mary Pascal Karasik died peacefully on the evening of Nov. 3. She was 103.

She was kind, hardworking, open-hearted and open-minded, endlessly curious, and a steady and successful advocate for justice.

Joan was born April 15, 1918 in New York city to Irene Cornelia Toumey Pascal and Henry Salem Pascal, who was born Chaim Shalom Pascal. Her sister Cornelia was born in 1920.

She received a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore and a master’s degree from Columbia. In 1944, she married Monroe Karasik. She lived in DC and Maryland and spent every summer since the early 1950s on Martha’s Vineyard.

Joan’s library ranged from the works of Nabokov to histories of her hometown of Manhattan. Her fix-it guides were especially well-used. Over the years, chairs were re-caned, sofas reupholstered, and tables refinished in her orderly workshop. She rebuilt the same parlor pump organ three times until she got it right.

She played cutthroat Scrabble and never left a New York Times crossword puzzle unfinished. She mowed her own lawn with a push mower until well into her 90s and enjoyed engaging visiting adult children in work projects. While she loved museums, concerts and theater, she was perhaps happiest at yard sales, at which she rescued many old-style and extremely helpful tools as well as amassing, one by one, an impressive collection of vintage bottle openers.

Her son David was born with an autism spectrum disorder; her sister Cornelia with multiple disabilities from birth. Throughout Joan’s life, she stood up for the rights and dignity of those with less power, especially those with disabilities. In that fight, Joan, along with her husband Monroe, was an unstoppable force. They were among the founders of the ARC of Maryland and in honor of the couple’s advocacy, two inclusive child-care centers were named The Karasik Centers.

She received many honors in recognition of her organizing and committee work, but the awards were never the point for her; she just wanted to get back to her desk and figure out how she and others could do more.

In addition to innumerable policy position papers, petitions, and practical recommendations for better services, her writing includes: the inaugural edition of Going Places with Children, a guidebook to Washington, D.C.; Sixty-Four Years of Medical Practice (1896-1960), co-authored with her father, Henry Pascal; her own Pascal Family History; and a theatrical adaptation of Jean Merrill’s The Pushcart War.

Dinner with Joan, on a porch when weather permitted, started with drinks, continued with a great home-cooked meal, plenty of wine, and discussion of all aspects of human endeavor. She was one of the world’s great listeners. Her curiosity inspired the curiosity of others. At her table, people thought a little bit more about what they were saying and whether they’d thought hard enough about it. And when she spoke, everybody listened.

She is survived by her four children: David Pascal Karasik, Michael Karasik and his wife Ellen Callegary, Judy Karasik and her husband Steven Rosenfeld, and Paul Karasik and his wife Marsha Winsryg; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Joan Karasik’s three rules for a happy life were: “Travel; take a pause and have a drink every evening before dinner; and stay out of your children’s business.” Agree with her or not, that’s our mom!

A memorial will be arranged for the spring of 2022.

Donations can be sent to Arc Montgomery County, CSAAC, or the Vineyard Independence Partnership.