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Little Oatlands’ Joan Williams dies at age 87

Joan Williams with her husband Richard. Mrs. Williams died April 19 following complications from cancer. Photo Courtesy/Williams family
Joan Beauregard Williams died Saturday, April 19, at the age of 87 following complications from cancer. A longtime resident of Washington, D.C. and Loudoun County, Mrs. Williams lived at Little Oatlands in the Oatlands Historic District.

She was an accomplished artist and gardener, was active in the local garden club and sang in her church choir. For many years she served on the Board of Directors of Oatlands Historic House and Gardens. She was the proud mother of three sons and had a host of friends of long standing.

Joan Williams was born Joan Douglass Toutant Beauregard on Jan. 27, 1927. She was the great granddaughter of Civil War Confederate Gen. Pierre Beauregard. Her parents Gustave and Mildred Beauregard both died of tuberculosis when Joan was a young girl. In 1935, Joan and her sister Renee became the wards of David and Margaret Finley who were old friends of the Beauregards and who thereafter raised the two girls as their own.

Finley had a distinguished career serving as a trusted adviser and attorney to Andrew Mellon in his roles as secretary of the treasury and ambassador to the court of St. James. Finley assisted Mellon with the founding of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and became its first director. Finley also served as chairman of the Fine Arts Commission and was the founder of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and first chairman of its board.

Mrs. Williams was a graduate of Foxcroft School in Middleburg, and of Bryn Mawr College. She grew up in Washington and at Little Oatlands, the Finley's home in Loudoun County. In 1950, she married Richard P. Williams of Alexandria. Mr. Williams practiced law for many years in Washington in the areas of securities and trusts and estates. In 1977, Mr. and Mrs. Williams moved from Washington, D.C. to Little Oatlands where they continued the Finley's stewardship of the historic property.

When Mrs. Williams was a teenager she met the Roosevelts at Oatlands, shortly after FDR had a historic meeting with Winston Churchill. And as she grew older the list of the famous also grew: Ethel Kennedy and Barbara Bush – both of whom played tennis with her; Lady Astor, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., the Trumans and others.

Eeda Dennis had a 30-plus year friendship with Mrs. Williams. She said, “She was a faithful friend – I always enjoyed her. She had a lot of spunk.” Mrs. Dennis commented that she loved Joan’s paintings and that she has some hanging in her house. She went on to say that the garden at Little Oatlands is “beautiful, planned by David and Margaret Finley with trees and sculptures in perfect harmony.” The Little Oatlands garden has been featured several times during Virginia Garden Week.

Andrea McGimsey, executive director of Oatlands, said that Mrs. Williams had been a long and faithful supporter of Oatlands over decades. Among other things, she donated an historic piano that belonged to the Eustis family. “Joan loved Jane Austen and named her two Jack Russell dogs after Austen characters. We love Joan and her family and they are in our thoughts and prayers. We are so grateful to Joan. We miss her.”

Joan Williams was good humored, down-to-earth and a friend to everyone. She continued to live an active life following her husband’s death in 2006. She is survived by their three sons – David Finley Williams and Richard Pardee Williams Jr., both of Chevy Chase, Md., and Ian Williams of Wilmington, Del,; her sister Suzanne Beauregard Coster of Fairfax; and her seven grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at Emmanuel Church in Middleburg on Saturday, May 17 at 4 p.m. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Oatlands (http://www.oatlands.org) or to the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership (http://www.hallowedground.org)

–Joe Motheral, with assistance from David, Richard and Ian Williams


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