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Joan Zimmer: East Northport matriarch who always made room at the table

Joan Zimmer, an East Northport woman known as

Joan Zimmer, an East Northport woman known as the matriarch of her family, died at 75 from the coronavirus. Credit: Todd J. Zimmer

At 15, Joan Zimmer, then Joan Heyman, found the man with whom she would spend the rest of her life What began as a chance meeting turned into a 60-year love story, said Stuart Zimmer, her husband.

“I honestly say, ‘thank you God for allowing me to meet this woman and spend 60 years with her,’ ” He said. “She made my life a joy.”

Joan Zimmer, a resident of East Northport for the past 50 years, died on April 7 after succumbing to COVID-19. She was 75.

She was born in Brooklyn on January 13, 1945. Along with her parents and two sisters, Zimmer grew up in Brighton Beach, the opposite end of the borough from her future husband.

One day, Zimmer and her friends got word of a party taking place at a fraternity house in East Flatbush. She was 15 and her future husband was 17 when they found each other. They hung out for just two hours. After he walked her to the bus stop, she turned to her friends and said, “I'm going to marry that guy. I know it.”

The two began dating shortly afterward and even went as a couple to her Sweet 16 party. On June 26, 1965, Joan Heyman made good on her promise to her friends and became Joan Zimmer. The newlyweds lived in Brooklyn for several years before moving to East Northport in 1970.

“[The] focus of her life was our family and our home,” Stuart Zimmer said. “She was a matriarch in the full sense of the word.”

Though Joan Zimmer held several part-time jobs throughout the years as a legal assistant and office manager while her husband worked as a teacher and later, a publisher, her eldest son, Todd, remembers her always being around when he and his brother Ronald came home from school. He recalled how much effort his mother put into holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, Passover and Thanksgiving.

“She was a very good cook,” Todd Zimmer said. “She wanted everybody there seated around the big table in the dining room which seated about 14 people.”

Joan Zimmer always left a couple of extra chairs at the table for “guest stars” — friends of her grandchildren or someone with nowhere else to spend the holidays. These additional guests would dine on what Todd Zimmer described as his mother’s incredible beef stew and noodle pudding, surrounded by carefully chosen candles, silverware and napkins set under a glistening chandelier.

She had a special relationship with her grandchildren, who would often come by to visit and spent hours on the phone with her. On several occasions, she accompanied her grandson Jared and his friends to “play the slots” at Jake’s 58.

“She was the cool grandma,” said Todd Zimmer. “She was someone who enriched so many people's lives with her love and care … she, to us, was the world."

Along with her husband and sons, Joan Zimmer is survived by daughter-in-law Susan of Commack, and three grandchildren. The family plans to hold a memorial to celebrate her life at a later date.

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