Local Obituaries

One of UK's original college of social work professors dies

Joanne I. Bell, who was among the original faculty in the University of Kentucky's College of Social Work, died May 16 at the age of 80 after complications from surgery.

UK hired Ms. Bell to teach in the Department of Social Work before it became a college in 1969. She retired in 1995 as an associate professor and was honored with an endowed teaching position created in her name — the Joanne I. Bell professorship in critical thinking and social policy analysis.

It was a fitting tribute for Ms. Bell, whose curiosity and compassion for people was unmatched, said Robin Durant, one of Ms. Bell's four "surrogate daughters."

"She affected everybody she came in contact with because she was such a people person," said Durant, 54, who lives in Baltimore.

It was Ms. Bell who steered Durant to go back to school in the last year to pursue a career in health. During Durant's phone calls, Ms. Bell would often ask for details about the classes and about Durant's fellow students at Essex Community College.

When Durant told her about another student who was financially strapped, Ms. Bell tried to figure out a way to send him money anonymously, Durant said.

Durant said Ms. Bell became a second mother to her after her mom, Shirley Hughes, moved in with Ms. Bell in the late 1950s.

Ms. Bell also served in that role as surrogate mother to her niece, Jennifer Marshall of Pennsylvania; Tina Walters of Maryland, whom Ms. Bell took under her wing when Walters' mother died three decades ago; and Isabel Valencia, a native of Venezuela who now lives in Germany.

Valencia needed a place to live while she was a student in the UK College of Agriculture in the mid-1970s and Ms. Bell took her in, Durant said.

"She's always been interested in educating children. That was her nature," said Durant, who recalled Ms. Bell steered her toward books like The Wind in the Willows and Winnie-the-Pooh when she was a girl.

Bell, a graduate of Juniata College and the University of Pennsylvania, also had served on the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government's Board of Adjustments and the Fayette County Public Health Department board.

Her family is planning a memorial service for this fall, Durant said.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader