Joan McGrath Harding Butterworth

Joan McGrath Harding Butterworth passed away on Monday, October 3, 2022, and was a sweet, pillar of strength to the end. She was born on November 29, 1934, in Baltimore, Maryland. Joan and her family moved to Williamsburg, VA in early 1971, and she resided in Newport News from 1981 until her death. She was predeceased by her sister Patricia, her wonderful second husband, Carey Langdon Butterworth, her sister Laura Suzanne, her father, James A. McGrath, her mother Laura Dunn McGrath, and her first child and beloved son, Allan David Harding, Jr.  

Joan lived a life of creativity, beauty, and teaching… which became her career for 25-plus years; after retiring from Newport News Public Schools, she also taught English as a second language. She attended Baltimore Junior College, Towson State University, and the College of William and Mary. She loved her students both in Baltimore and Newport News. But mostly, she adored being a mother. She was the mother to Joallyn “Jo Louise” Harding (Jeff Madden) of Newport News; Kevin Harding (Queite de Paula), and Tim Harding all of Richmond, VA.  She was also very close to her nieces, Laura & Annie Wolf, and Annie’s son, Grant, all of Sparks, MD; and several cousins.

Joan loved Ikebana, arranging flowers in all sorts of beautiful vases and containers, as well as drawing and painting. She was always captivated by Asian art and furniture, and in 2007 was able to realize a lifelong dream of traveling to China. She was particularly proud of her Irish heritage and visited the British Isles and Ireland as well as many other parts of the world, and loved every journey. She enjoyed cooking, especially for her family; she was a lifelong Episcopalian; and spent hours doing needlework. And she adored chocolate and cookies! Joan loved her family most of all and remained in touch over the years with many friends from her childhood. She always enjoyed having pets – dogs and cats—and was surrounded by the company of her daughter’s cats, Max and MayBelle until the end…along with her constant companion of the last year, her cherished stuffed animal, Peter Rabbit.

To honor Joan, please make donations to two of her favorite charities over many years: the St. Joseph’s Indian School and Sentara Hospice Services, which provided excellent, loving care to Joan for the last eight weeks of her life.

Arrangements are under the care of Peninsula Funeral Home, 11144 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601.


  1. Brenda Hearn

    Dearest Jo, I was so sorry to see the text message you sent regarding the passing of your beautiful mother. My entire office was saddened at the news. I will always remember your mama as a sweet, kind, friendly, and lovely lady. She so enjoyed it when she said she was “Mrs. Butterworth”. She had a great smile that could warm your heart. You have always had such wonderful and pleasant stories to share of her and I know your entire family will be able to find comfort in them in the days ahead. I’m sure there are many people who will be missing Mrs. Butterworth. Fondly, Brenda and the staff of HREA Hidenwood.

  2. Jack Neel and Frances Pride

    Jo, we were so sorry to learn of the passing of your Mom. Please know you have our sincere condolences on your loss.

  3. Donna Raoust

    Joan was truly a delightful and wonderful human. I know she will be sorely missed for a very long time, although I’m sure it brings comfort that her suffering is finally at an end. Love, prayers and huge hugs to all of you.

  4. Leigh Anne Clary

    I was just thinking of the teachers who made a lasting difference in my life and thought of Mrs. Harding, so I looked her up and sadly found this. She was my 5th grade teacher in a home room of gifted students and she put so much into making it special for us! I remember our morning dance-offs – she let us bring in our favorite records. She taught us about black history and didn’t sugarcoat it or gloss over anything. She taught us French. She was so delightful and I was thrilled to run into her once when I was a teenager. She made a difference to a little girl many years ago, so I can only imagine her impact on her friends and family.

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