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In Memoriam: Joan Mulhern

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View Marty Hayden's blog posts
19 December 2012, 2:26 PM
A fighter for all who suffered environmental injustice
Joan was a tireless advocate for the underdog in every situation. She will be greatly missed.

Earthjustice mourns the passing of the strongest and bravest advocate for clean water and justice that we have ever known, our very own senior legislative counsel Joan Mulhern.

Earthjustice’s original “Mountain Hero,” Joan began her great work at Earthjustice in 1999, bringing with her a remarkable dedication to clean water and leading the organization in its work to save Appalachian waters and communities by ending mountaintop removal mining, to protect Florida waters from toxic algae slime, and to bring the protections of the law to all waters of the United States.

Joan Mulhern.Joan delivered numerous
Congressional testimonies.

A fighter for the planet and for all people who suffered environmental injustice, Joan was a tireless advocate for the underdog in every situation, and she seldom if ever lost. She put her heart and soul into her work—which was driven by her fierce determination to defend the disadvantaged and protect those with less power—in a way few can. And in these efforts, she was positively courageous and unflinching, never shrinking back from powerful special interests and bleak politics, and never backing down in her defense of people and communities.

In addition to her fighting spirit, Joan was admired, loved, and sometimes feared for her sharp tongue, her wry sense of humor, and her die-hard dedication to the Boston Red Sox.

Joan Mulhern.In 2007, Joan was named by Vanity Fair as one of 22 Eco-Heroes.

Her Earthjustice family and all who worked with her—as well as all who enjoy clean water and have benefited from her work—are going to miss Joan and her indomitable spirit more than words can express.

The advocates fighting to protect the waters of our nation and the people of Appalachia, and fighting for environmental justice more broadly, may not have this giant standing by their side going forward, but Joan will live on in all of our hearts and efforts.


  • Read a collection of tributes from Joan's colleagues and friends in a memorial in the Earthjustice Quarterly Magazine.
  • Watch Joan testify before Congress on mountaintop removal mining:

The only appropriate memorial for the fighting spirit that was Joan is to do our part. Water should be considered a sacred resource and as we face up to the polluters and profiteers who would remove mountaintops or fracture the earth itself we will be honoring Joan. My sincere sympathy to all who knew and loved Joan, with gratitude and appreciation for her life and the work of Earthjustice.

God bless you, Joan Mulhern, and thank you for your years of service to protect and defend our precious environment!

I did not know Joan personally. I've never even heard her voice out loud. But I have heard the voice of her message and know that Joan will be missed by me and countless others as a heroic leader and voice fighting for a better planet. Because of her achievements, in many ways, she is still with us, as we try to stand with her in her beliefs in building and procuring a cleaner, greener world. Her work has left it's spiritual impression on those of us who are trying to follow her guidelines, and who want so badly to follow in her footsteps, on a pathway to a better future. Thank you Joan for everything you've done, and to Earthjustice for strengthening and communicating her cause, and the many others before and after her.

I live in Canada and have never met Joan Mulhern, however, I'm thankful for her obviously great contribution to the environment, and for her willingness to fight for the things that benefit all life. I'm sure she has and will continue to be an inspiration to many. A very sad loss. My deepest sympathy to her family.

I never heard of Joan Mulhern until today, but only a quick skim of some of the things she was involved with (on this page and in an obituary I found) showed me that she was a great asset to Earthjustice, which means she was a great asset to ALL of us, since we're not separate from the Earth (I wish every human being realized that). RIP Ms. Mulhern, and you were taken from us far, far too soon.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all what you did to defend our fragile and deteriorating environment, eventhough i did not know you, Joan ! Sincere sympathy to your family !

Joan, you shall forever be revered as a martyr, fighting the great fight for our noble causes from the Promised Land of Rainbow Ridge in Heaven. Thank you for fighting the noble fight here on Earth, so that our generations will have a better world in the countless tomorrows to come. And now, your great work continues as a spiriutual entity for all of our sisters and brothers of this Earth, as we carry the torch and banner of your legacy to continue with the noble task at hand. May your tireless spirit dwell within all of us.

I never met nor heard of Joan Mulhern but the causes she defended, being close to my heart, have been so basic for our survival as a caring society that I am at loss of words for not having thanked her while she was alive. May she rest in peace and her legacy continue changing our country for the better. My deepest regards for ther family.

Joanie, you will be missed for your dedication and passion. But you have inspired many others and the fight will go on and on. Thank you, brave soul. Your work on earth is done, but what you started will continue.

Though I didn't know Joan, I am very sadden to hear that an environmental warrior has passed. I wish every human being on this planet fought for the wellbeing of this planet. I guess God needed another angel......

Marie, Jackie and Martha: When we moved next door to you guys in 1972 at the beginning of the summer, and with no friends, you were the kids who walked through the woods and asked if we would like to play wiffle ball. We all exhailed and said yes! Ever since, your family has been comforting and kind. We all grew up together and grew closer. Together, we have cheered on the Red Sox and rooted for the home teams. Joannie seems to have done quite a job at standing up for the underdog. She has made a difference. We are all very sorry for her loss. I will remember Joannie for her humor, her passion for the Sox and for her dedication to defending those who could not defend themselves. We should all take comfort in the contribution Joannie made to the environment and to those whom she defended. My depest sympathies to our friends, the Mulhern family.

To Marie, Jackie, and Martha, Bob and I send our condolences on the loss of your sister Joanie. I was so saddened to learn of the news of her passing. It doesn't seem possible that the little girl I babysat for not so long ago and who was so full of energy has finished what she was put on this earth to do. Who would have guessed that the little sweet girl would grow up so fast and accomplish all she did in her short lived life. Joan was a remarkable woman but it doesn't surprise me because she and you had remarkable parents. I still cherish the memories of our times together in Sherborn when you were all young. You are all still dear to my heart. May God comfort you during this sad time. And may Joanie rest in peace as she joins your parents and brother Bobby. Love, Bob and Mary

Tears for my long lost friend...I haven't seen or heard from Joanie in 30 years but she has never been forgotten and will never be. We shared so many good times and I loved her dearly. Rest in peace my friend and fly with the Angels!

Beautifully put Judy. Sorry to have missed you at the wake. We have all lost a wonderful friend. Tracy Belcher & Christina Hale

Tears for my long lost friend...I haven't seen or heard from Joanie in 30 years but she has never been forgotten and will never be. We shared so many good times and I loved her dearly. Rest in peace my friend and fly with the Angels!

God Bless you Joanie! Rest in Peace, you will be missed

Prayers to Father Sky for all the family and friends.

Im very sad to hear about this. Joan was a strong ally for the people of Appalachia fighting to protect the mountains. She will be greatly missed by all of us in Appalachia. Thanks Joan for your many years of service to the cause. You were a good friend

Joan was a wonderful lady. Smart. Opinionated. Always tough. Often kind. A class act. She is missed.

Sadness, tears and love abound here in West Virginia -- for Joan and all she has done for and with us.

Our overwhelming gratitude to Earthjustice - and Joan's family - for bringing and sharing her with us this ever so many years..... Our fight to preserve clean water that sustains us and the mountains that surround and protect us are all the stronger because of Joan's concern, consideration and involvement.

Blessings to you all in this season of remembrance.

Joan gave the best of herself away to others who learned from her. The world will not be the same without Joan. We will miss her and move forward with memories of her and all she taught us.
The world is a better place because of Joan and all she done.

Even before her outstanding work for EarthJustice, Joan compiled what for most people would have been a lifetime of achievement on the environmental front in Vermont. Joan was for many of us both our environmental hero and our close friend and I am sure I was not the only one who was thankful that I was never on the opposite side of an issue with Joan. My best to all her friends at EarthJustice, we all share in her loss but have been lucky to have known one of the best....

Joan was someone I could point to in the District who was hyper-focused on doing the right thing without compromise. One of the amazing group of folks leading the charge at Earthjustice. I appreciated, both when I worked at Friends of the Earth and now with the DC Environmental Network, how she really cared about her community in our nation's capital city. She really cared about the Anacostia River and for that I and so many others are most appreciative and in her debt.

Joan was a wonderful friend and mentor to me. I will always remember her sharp brilliance, heart-warming spirit, and the sound of her laugh. What an honor to have had her in my life.

Joan was a determined advocate. Her passion for clean water and healthy communities was evident to anyone who spent five minutes with her. It was an honor to watch Joan work and call her a colleague.

Joan was one whose motives could never be questioned. She was firm, unrelenting, and uncompromising in her advocacy fights for the environment and for those less fortunate who suffered dis-proportionally from the hands of polluting industries. She died too young and will be sorely missed, but her lessons will live on and her stalwart example not soon forgotten. Rest in peace.

Joan will be missed. If we all stand up and fight like she did, we could stop so much of the madness and big polluting money hungry bastards from killing all the birds, wildlife, and earth just for their power and greed. One of many polluters are the Chemical trails that is sprayed on the population, over the world. It is a horrible mass killing of birds, wildlife, trees and plants, everything living on earth. Look at one of the best websites ever seen, We all appreciate Earthjustice and all you do. We are so very sad we lost beautiful Joan. Our sincerest sympathy.

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