With great sadness, the Francis Filliben Family announces the passing of Joan M. Filliben on May 16, 2023 at the age of 91. She was a beloved and devoted wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt, great aunt, and Godmother. Born in Delaware County, PA in 1931, she was one of two children born to Loretta MacLellan, nee Fitzgerald, and Thomas (“Ted”) Baird MacLellan. She loved her only sibling and older brother, John (“Jack”) Thomas MacLellan, dearly and enjoyed taking trips with him, especially to the Jersey Shore. Raised in Glenolden, PA, Joan graduated from Glen-Nor High School. She married her beloved husband Francis (“Franny”) J. Filliben in 1953. Last year, they celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary.
As a young woman prior to her marriage, Joan worked in Center City Philadelphia for the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. She then secured a position at the Pennsylvania Railroad, riding the train to work with her father who also worked in the railroad’s Philadelphia office. She remembers those rides fondly. Later in life, pursuing her talent and passion for arranging flowers, Joan worked for Martine’s Florist in Wilmington, DE in the mid-1980’s for a brief time until grandchildren continued to bless the family.
Joan’s dedication to her family and friends shaped everything she did. As a devoted homemaker, she made many sacrifices to raise five children in the Catholic faith providing them with the best education possible. Additionally, Joan maintained a comfortable home environment, making certain that delicious meals were frequent and that the basics were always covered. Joan and Franny thoroughly enjoyed decorating the house for each holiday, a tradition that continued right on through.
The 19-year span between her eldest child Annette Gass, nee Filliben, and her youngest Patrick Filliben kept Joan on her toes for quite some time. During this long span of grade school years, many volunteer hours were contributed towards Christmas bazaars, clothing drives, bake sales, and lunchroom mother duties until the antics of her youngest Patrick forced her into “early” retirement. Joan’s presence in the home also enabled her husband Franny to extend himself to various organizations and charitable works. Despite her busy schedule, she generously and gladly opened her home and provided loving care when both her mother and her mother-in-law needed in-home recoveries for extended, but fortunately different, periods of time.
Joan was always thinking of others, offering support physically or through the written word. She loved to send cards to her family and friends, literally writing to dozens of people each year, plus countless more at Christmas time. Whether someone was celebrating a birthday, a sacrament, an anniversary, or marking another meaningful occasion, happy or sad, Joan would painstakingly select the perfect card and then do everything possible to make sure the card would arrive on the exact date – even including driving to different post offices for drop off. Joan’s address book was her North Star for supporting loved ones. As such, she worked diligently to ensure that her guide was-up-to-date, which was quite a feat considering the size of her circle of family and friends.
Joan was also a loyal, trusted, and compassionate friend during the most challenging times. She comforted multiple different sets of parents following the untimely deaths of their children. She also provided strong support for multiple family members and friends who were suffering from very serious illnesses. Frequent visits whether to the hospital, nursing home, or residence were one of her ways to show her love and ever-present support.
Along with her beloved husband Franny, Joan loved to host parties, dance with anyone - and everyone - who was willing, and toast with her cherished Manhattans. Her home was always alive with music with Irish music being at the top of Joan’s playlist. Many family members and friends share wonderful memories of gathering in the living room and listening, clapping, singing, and dancing to the rousing piano playing of dear family friend Clifford (“Cliff”) Weber. There was even a square dance from time to time. One of the most anticipated gatherings each year was Joan’s and Franny’s New Year’s Eve Party where friends, neighbors, and family members would festively welcome the New Year in right through the wee hours of the morning.
Joan also kept busy with her hobbies. She developed a passion for reading early in life that brought her tremendous joy for decades to come. She enjoyed fiction the most, particularly romantic fiction. Her favorite book was Gone with the Wind which she first read in her early teens and enjoyed again many times through the years. Countless hours were spent reading with her brother Jack, seated side-by- side on the balcony of the Clipper Ship in Brigantine, New Jersey.
Joan also loved arranging beautiful and fragrant flowers. She was extremely fortunate because she often picked her bouquets straight from the magnificent gardens that Franny, and then later in life, their talented son Thomas (“Tom”) Filliben, grew in their scenic backyard in Greenview.
Joan is survived by her children and their spouses, Annette Gass (Hans), Thomas Filliben, David Filliben (Donna Caster), Eileen Filliben Edmunds (Nate), and Patrick Filliben (Amy) as well as nine grandchildren, two great grandchildren, and dozens of nieces and nephews, as well as her fun-loving sisters-in-law.
Joan is predeceased by the following: her adoring husband, Franny, who passed away in December 2022, her parents, Loretta and Ted MacLellan, and her brother Jack MacLellan. As she reunites with each family member and friend in Heaven, Joan’s first question is, “Where are your dancing shoes?”
Joan really enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren and great grandchildren who affectionately called her “Mom-Mom”. Those surviving her and their spouses are Stephanie Fegley (Micah), Christopher Gass, Carson (Bishop) Edmunds Golden, Katherine Filliben, Matthew Filliben, Kelly Edmunds, Mia Filliben, Austin Edmunds, Blake Filliben and two greatgrandchildren, Brianna and Keegan Fegley. Also very precious to Joan were her dozens of nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews, and her many cherished friends. While she sometimes jokingly referred to her in-laws as “out-laws”, she loved them dearly and considered them true sisters and brothers.
Joan was a picture of grace, patience, strength, and quiet resilience. She appreciated the gift of each and every day. Joan chose to celebrate life intentionally with her family and friends. She demonstrated her love through caring, and she wove fun and laughter into her life’s melody.
A charitable gift may be made in Joan’s honor to Jewish Family Services of Delaware’s COMPASS program. Please make checks payable to JFS Delaware, 99 Passmore Rd., Wilmington, DE 19803 or make a gift online at https://www.jfsdelaware.org/donate/. Please indicate “COMPASS / Joan Filliben” in the check memo or donation message.
A visitation will be held on Wednesday, May 24 from 5 pm to 7 pm at McCrery & Harra Funeral Home, 3924 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE. An additional visitation will be held on Thursday, May 25 from 10 am to 11 am at St. Mary Magdalen Church, 7 Sharpley Rd., Wilmington, DE with a Mass of Christian Burial to follow at 11 am. Burial will then be at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Cemetery, 10 Old Church Road, Greenville, DE.
For online condolences visit: www.mccreryandharra.com