Joan Echausse, a longtime Westbury resident who devoted much of her life to serving others through the Catholic church, died at her home Sunday after a battle with pancreatic cancer, her family said.
The mother of eight and widow of former Westbury Deputy Mayor Paul Echausse was 84.
Paul H. Echausse of Locust Valley said his mother first learned the value of compassion and charity from her father, who ran a construction company during the Great Depression, and made sure to take care of his employees financially, “even when there wasn’t any work to be done.”
“At a very early age, she learned that we are really here to be in service of others — to be humble and selfless,” he said.
Joan Echausse grew up in Great Neck and attended Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Syosset. After graduating from Marymount College in Tarrytown, she took a job working with Nassau County Social Services, beginning a career of service to the poor, her family said.
Upon earning a master’s degree in theology at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, Echausse worked as a teacher for several Catholic schools, including St. Francis de Chantal in Wantagh, Our Lady of Fatima in Jackson Heights and St. Aloysius in Great Neck.
After retiring from teaching, Echausse began working as director of parish outreach for the St. Brigid Church in Westbury, where she had previously taught catechism to middle school children. She held the outreach position until her death, her family said.
The church, on its web site, called Echausse a “passionate, determined, zealous, soul-filled advocate for those in need.”
She married her late husband, Paul, in 1958.
Her son Paul said his mother was equally passionate about her family, which included 16 grandchildren. He said a photo of his mother parasailing with one of her grandchildren at 77 years old encapsulated her “gusto for life.”
“She is excited, waiting for the parasail to lift her off the boat. And her 13-year-old grandson is terrified,” Paul H. Echausse recalled. He said his mother remained positive, even in her final days. “She knew she was going to be rejoining my father.”
In addition to son Paul, Echausse is survived by her daughters, Mary Ellen Krupa of Jamesport, Nancy Echausse of Rye Brook and Elizabeth Loder of Westfield, New Jersey; her sons Peter of Westfield, New Jersey, Patrick of Mineola, Timothy of Westbury, and Brian, of Westbury; and her sister,Gail Streich of Cary, North Carolina.
A wake at the Donahue-Cecere Funeral Home, at 290 Post Ave. in Westbury, was scheduled on Tuesday, May 7 and Wednesday, May 8, 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be said on Thursday at 11 a.m. in St. Brigid’s, 75 Post Ave in Westbury.
The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to St. Brigid’s Parish Outreach.