Joan Elizabeth Grabeel, 69, of Athens, passed away peacefully at home on April 5, 2019, surrounded by her family. Born the eldest of five sisters in the Clearwater community to William Edward and Dortha Mae Key Hughes in 1949, she went to college and lived many years in Johnson City, then Rogersville, where she met her husband, Frank. She was a nursing leader, serving our country in the Army Reserves. Later, she dedicated 30 years to public health service with the Tennessee State Department of Health, working as a quality assurance coordinator for the Southeast Region in East Tennessee until her retirement. Joan curated a beautiful life of love, tradition, and antiques. An avid gardener, she firmly believed there was always room for one more flowering shrub or architectural houseplant. She loved people and their stories. She enjoyed her pets, music, holidays, and family gatherings. She was preceded in death by her parents, Edward and Dorotha Hughes; and sister, Judi Hughes Watson. She is survived by her husband, Frank Grabeel of Athens; daughter, Beth Womac Hatfield, and granddaughter, Grace Hatfield, of Athens; son, Nathan Womac, and daughter-in-law, Dana Bramble, of Rock Hill, S.C.; Dana’s daughters, Kailye and Kara Birchfield; stepdaughters, Virginia (Jack) Copley of Charleston, W.Va., and Martha (Nathan) Carmley of Vonore; and granddaughter, Grace Copley. She is also survived by her sisters, Mary Long of Morristown, Ann (Russ) Parise of Kingsport, and Janice Crabtree of Athens, and brother-in-law, Don Watson of Sweetwater, in addition to nieces and nephews Jodi (Chad) Rose, Lori (Jason) Baumgardner, Casey (Emily) Long, Russell Long, Katie (Bryan) Walker, James Haren, John (Andrea) Haren, Andrew Crabtree, and Betsy Crabtree. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to organizations closest to Joan’s heart: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (, American Cancer Society (, and Shriner’s Hospitals ( There will be a private graveside service with interment at Clearwater Cemetery in Athens. Condolences may be sent at Laycock-Hobbs Funeral Home of Athens is in charge of arrangements.

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