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Skidmore College
Skidmore Retirees

Joan Orton Fina

Joan Orton Fina, a longtime events coordinator for Skidmore, died November 3, 2016, at her home in Saratoga Springs. She was 83.

Born in Burlington, VT, Joan attended the University of Vermont before moving to Saratoga Springs in 1952, when she married Thomas Orton. She began working at Skidmore in 1969 and served as coordinator of college events until her retirement in 1988, serving under Presidents Joe Palamountain and David Porter.

Christine Hoek, former development director, says, “Joan was a lovely woman—gracious, elegant, always warm and approachable. She created memorable events that engaged a variety of audiences over the years, events that were the beginning of a lifelong relationship for many.”

Jeff Segrave, in health and exercise sciences, remembers Joan helping him and colleague Don Chu organize an Olympics symposium at Skidmore to coincide with the 1980 games in Lake Placid, NY. Jeff says, “Without Joan and her experience—not to mention her support and tolerance for us two neophytes—we would never have pulled it off! With grace and humor, she told us how to manage people, finances, and facilities, and she introduced us around both at the college and in Saratoga.” He recalls too that Joan hosted a post-symposium party at her house, with deans and other influential college figures, which made it “a grand moment in my career.”

Lynn Doe Shipway ’70, former administrator and librarian at Skidmore, notes that Joan arranged lodging, meals, and all manner of logistics “back before cell phones or even email. Yet she made every campus celebration seem easy. She had the touch that calmed parents, students, faculty, or trustees regardless of the crisis.” In short, says Lynn, “Joan always put Skidmore's best foot forward!”

After Tom Orton died in 1977, Joan married Fil Fina Jr. in 1986. She was a member of the Saratoga Springs Garden Club and Soroptomists, president of the Junior Civic League, and a board director of the Hawley Foundation and Saratoga Hospital’s Flower and Fruit Mission. She was a pianist, bridge player, golfer, landscape watercolorist, and voracious reader.

She is survived by husband Fil; her children, Julie Orton of New York City, Kim Callahan and Karen Coppernoll of The Villages, FL, Thomas Orton Jr. of Las Vegas, NV, Susan Orton of Poughkeepsie, NY, and Kate Charbonneau of Satellite Beach, FL; Fil’s six children; sister Elizabeth Kmen of Glenville, NY, and brothers K. Paul Fennell Jr. of Bend, OR, and Luther Weston Fennell of St. Simons Island, GA; plus 15 grandchildren, several sons- and daughters-in-law, and many nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by sister Anne Fennell.

Relatives and friends may call this Tuesday, November 8, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Burke & Sons/Bussing & Cunniff Funeral Homes, 628 N. Broadway in Saratoga Springs. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Wednesday, November 9, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Clements Church, 231 Lake Ave.

Donations in Joan’s memory may be made to Community Hospice of Saratoga, 179 Lawrence Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Online remembrances may be posted at this weblink.