Joan Northam


Mrs. Joan Hart Northam, 90, wife of Leslie “Les” Thomas Northam, departed this earthly life on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023, in Onancock. Born Dec. 16, 1932, in Melfa, she was the daughter of the late Brooks Hart Sr. and Flora Berry Hart Etz.

Growing up in Melfa, she was active and unconventional from the start. She would fly planes with her father, who lost his hearing in the war, to help him communicate with the air traffic controller. She learned American Sign Language in a time when few people were able to communicate with the deaf.

A lifelong athlete, she enjoyed playing golf as a younger woman and tennis at the country club later in life. She could perform the “bear walk” and splits well into her mature years. She had the tiniest waist, able to wear a bikini proudly just a few weeks after giving birth to her daughter.

Forever competitive, Joan won a brand new Thunderbird in her 20s after selling the most subscriptions to the Eastern Shore News. If she entered a golf competition, it was already written that she would place first.

It was during a rival football game — Joan cheering for Central and Les playing ball for Onancock — when the two began to fall in love. Under the field lights on a cool fall evening, a future was forged. Decades were spent sharing their lives and raising their daughters, Lesa and Lori. To say she will be missed is an understatement. Her legacy will continue through the generations.

She had no love for the stereotypical duties of her time, cleaning and cooking, but instead found a love of nature and animals. She would plot the striation of plants and shrubbery in her yard, often sketching her ideas well into the evening. She made sure to have blooming flowers in her yard every season. Joan and Les were known to have a large congregation of dogs in their yard. That was because they fed just about every stray, cats included, that wandered down College Avenue.

Her love of family was evident to all who knew her. She had a wonderful bond with her husband and girls, and her friendship with her nephew, Donnie Hart, was admired and appreciated by those who knew her best.

Left to cherish her memory are her husband, Les Northam; daughters, Lesa Watt and husband, Price Watt, of Reidsville, N.C., and Lori Garner and husband, Randy Garner, of Wilmington, N.C.; sister, Ingelow Swain, of Hampton; brother, Brann Hart, of Melfa; grandchildren, Tripp Elliott and wife, Madison Elliott, of Charlotte, N.C., Lexi Elliott and fiancé, Andrew Ellen, of Brown Summit, N.C., and Kayla Garner, of Wilmington; special nephew, Donnie Hart Jr. and wife, Beth Hart, of Keller; and several nieces, nephews, and close friends.

Joan was predeceased by her parents, Brooks Hart Sr. and Flora Berry Hart Etz; and brothers, Donald Hart Sr., Brooksie Hart, and Henry Hart.

Per her wishes, there will be a private celebration of her life. Consider planting a beautiful flower in the yard in her memory to complement the beauty she shared with this world. She finished her journey the same way she began — on her own terms. Hers was a race well run.

Contributions in Joan’s memory may be made to Riverside Shore Hospice, P.O. Box 616, Onley, VA 23418.

Memory tributes may be shared with the family at

Arrangements are by the Williams-Onancock Funeral Home.

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