Philanthropist and activist Joan Kaye Cauthorn dies

Those who knew Tucson philanthropist and community activist Joan Kaye Cauthorn, who died on Sept. 3, 2018 at age 75, describe her as one-of-a-kind.

“Joan was a one-of-a-kind, kind-hearted force of nature who spent much of her energy making the world a better place.  She cared deeply about the people who crossed her path — and our community is better for it,” says Stuart Mellan, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.

Born in the Bronx, New York, Mrs. Cauthorn moved to Tucson in 1970 with her then-husband, Allan Biegel. She was a graduate of Syracuse University and earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Arizona. She specialized in family and couples counseling before retiring.

Mrs. Cauthorn was active in a variety of causes and organizations, including the University of Arizona’s Center for Judaic Studies, Arts for All, the Arizona Theatre Company, the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona, Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona, the UA Foundation, Reveille Men’s Chorus, Chicanos Por La Causa and Democratic politics. She was honored by the Tucson chapter of the NAACP, the ATC, the YWCA, and the Tucson Human Relations Commission, among others. For five years, from 2013-2017, the UA College of Science psychology department held The Joan Kaye Cauthorn Annual Conference on Successful Aging.

“Joan was truly one-of-a-kind and our entire community is diminished — she always was the go-to person to launch a project or to get a campaign across the finish line. Joan was a people person to the nth degree — ascertaining the interests and talents of all those she knew and all those she met, and making perfect matches among those within her ever-widening circle of friends,” says Bobby Present, a neighbor and longtime family friend.

Mrs. Cauthorn was preceded in death by her husband, Robert Cauthorn. Survivors include her daughters, Jennifer (Steve) Marsden and Jillian (Randy) Kohl; siblings, Nancy (Sylvester) Karagis and Howard (Wilma) Kaye, both of New York City; and three grandchildren.

Services were held at Evergreen Cemetery with Rabbi Stephanie Aaron of Congregation Chaverim officiating. A celebration of life will be held at a later date.