Joan Peabody Southwell: Beloved Mother, Sister and Teacher

Joan Peabody Southwell. – Courtesy photo


Joan Peabody Southwell, 67, of Sierra Madre, passed away on Sunday, March 26, 2017 from complications of scleroderma, a rare auto-immune disease.

Joan was born on February 4, 1950 in New York. She and her two sisters, Jennifer Peabody Marks and the late Josephine Peabody Campbell (née Marks) were the daughters of Lionel Peabody Marks and Jane Parker Marks, both deceased. She was a granddaughter of the renowned poet and playwright Josephine Preston Peabody, whose volume of poems for children circa 1908 titled “Book of Little Past” was one of Joan’s lifelong favorites.

She received her Bachelor’s degree in Education from Goucher College shortly before her marriage to Thomas J. Southwell in 1971. The young couple toured Europe in a red VW bus named Henrietta before moving from New York to Los Angeles the following year. Once in California, Joan attended Cal State LA for her Master’s degree in Education and became an elementary school teacher for the LAUSD where she met and befriended a fellow teacher, Sue Holliday, who quickly became an irreplaceable member of Joan’s family.

After moving to Sierra Madre, Joan came to the Sierra Madre Community Nursery School where she taught for more than 20 years. She and the longtime director of the school, Beverly Slocum, became close friends, sharing their love of the school as well as a mutual passion for horses. Joan’s love of animals is legendary – from the horses she owned with Beverly, to the bunnies, chickens, ducks, snakes, fish and silk worms she cared for at school, the cats and dogs she had at home, and any creature who crossed her path.

Joan had a magical way with children, none more so than her own daughters, Emily Parrish Southwell and Alison Peabody Southwell.

She is survived by her daughters, husband Thomas Southwell, sister Jennifer Peabody Marks, dear friend and godmother to her daughters Sue Holliday, son-in-law James Darrah, nephews Sebastian Norton, Douglas Campbell Jr., and Andrew Campbell along with a rich community of devoted friends and animals.

A celebration of her life will be held in Sierra Madre in the near future with details forthcoming. She asked that her ashes be scattered off the coast of Maine, a summer haven all her life, from a sailboat like the one her father captained throughout her childhood. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Sierra Madre Mountain Conservancy ( or the Project Puffin Audubon (

March 29, 2017

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2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Joan Peabody Southwell: Beloved Mother, Sister and Teacher”

  1. Clarita and Darryl Gustafson says:

    With much love for such a caring loving person as Joan was, we extend our prayers to the entire Southwell family. We look forward to the celebration of her life event. With love, Darryl and Clarita Gustafson.

    ps: how I enjoyed following her expertise physical workout routine along with the rest of our Diva workout friends at sierra Fitness. I will miss her so very much!!

  2. Claudia Little says:

    Joan changed Sofia and Jareds life. She will be missed by the Little”s .

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