Helen Pennington
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Obituary of Helen Joan Pennington

H. Joan (Tolson) Pennington, Esq. passed away peacefully on Sunday January 13th 2019.

Born to Ethel M. and Chester C. Tolson on February 4th 1933 and raised in Old New Castle, DE, she graduated William Penn High School in 1951.

She was predeceased by 3 siblings, Jeanne (Tolson) Francescato, Janette (Tolson) Thompson, and John (Jack) Tolson. She is also predeceased by her son, Dale Pennington.

She is survived by her children, R. David Pennington of New Castle, DE, Denise Erdman, Darlene J. Bright, Donna J. Fear and Diane C. Mulford all of Pennsville. She is also survived by 12 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren.

Legally blind since birth, Joan began her higher education at the age of forty and received her Associates Degree in Liberal Arts with high honors from Salem Community College in 1975 and considered this opportunity as the bedrock of her educational achievements and future career. Onto Glassboro State (now Rowan University), she earned her Bachelor of Arts, Magne Cum Lauda and teaching certificate; 1977. Experiencing legal obstacles in many of her activist endeavors, Joan decided to push her unexpected hopes just one step hither, and finally, after numerous setbacks and roadblocks, she graduated from Rutgers-Camden School of Law with her Juris Doctor in 1981. After suffering a stroke while studying for it the first time, she passed the New Jersey Bar in 1983.

She began her career in Trenton, NJ as a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Mercer County where she worked hard to protect her clients, despite the low pay and large outstanding school loans, because she desired to assist clients who needed the support of someone who has "been there" to leave violent home situations and succeed on their own.

After 6 successful years, she was offered a job in New York City, with The National Center on Women if family law. There, she assisted Legal Services Attorneys around the Country with complex family law cases, did much research and published writing for the National Center.

In 1991, Joan founded her own National Center based in Trenton for assisting parents trying to protect their children from abuse by the other parent. The National Center for Protective Parents, Inc. offered referrals to professionals, research, advice and other non-representational services on a national scale, and appeared as an expert witness in court.

Her in-house research papers, testimony transcripts and Amicus Curiae Briefs have been widely distributed, nationwide.

In 1993, after soliciting a local Board of Directors to raise funds for the institution of a separate program to be taken on by the Center: The Women's Law Center, representing battered women and their children, hiring attorneys and training them in-house on a sliding fee scale. The Project was funded in 1994 by the U.S. Justice Department.

Joan was retired by the Board of Directors in 2001 and after a year of pro bono work she moved to Pennsville, NJ to be near her family and regained her connections with Salem Community College through and "at large" position on the Alumni Board.

She has won many awards such as: Woman of the year, Woman of Inspiration, and may more, but more importantly, she fought for justice for those who would otherwise not have the means. She had a big heart, the best sense of humor, and will be sadly missed by her family and friends.

In honor of H. Joan Pennington, contributions can be made to: Salem County Women's Services.

As her body was donated to science, her family will "Celebrate Joan" at the family's Convenience.

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