Joan R. Hickey

After a lifetime of serving children and making Brits uncomfortable by starting small talk on long train rides, Joan Rae (Petitt) Hickey, 62, completed her earthly adventure on December 22, 2021 at home surrounded by her family following a short but spirited fight with cancer. She moves on to the celestial realm which, honestly, may be better suited to containing her boundless energy.

Born in Great Falls, MT, she was the daughter of the late Major Richard R. and Betty Lou (Hatter) Petitt, USAF (ret).  She was raised in Panama City, FL, and earned a degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of West Florida.  Just prior to graduation, she perchance happened upon a young Naval Officer and captured his heart.

Rae was the loving spouse of 40 years to Jay.  Together they built a life, raised and nurtured a family, and saw the world together while stationed throughout the United States and overseas in Bahrain and the United Kingdom.  Accordingly, she literally had a “World Famous” laugh.  The extremely proud mother of Erin, Shawn, and Caitlin, she cherished spending time with her children and their spouses and partners. But no one brought “Mema” greater joy than her grandchildren, Ashton and Aubree, followed closely by her “boys,” George and Dozer.  While society may recognize the latter as canines, they were the last in an ever-evolving pack of four-legged companions throughout her life. 

Dedicated to her career as an early childhood educator, Rae was committed to her advocacy for all children, but especially those who needed her assistance the most.  She was beloved in her community and left an immeasurable impact on those she knew and taught over the years.

Rae enjoyed traveling, sci-fi movies, and spending time at the beach.  She looks forward to learning the truth behind Skinwalker Ranch before everyone else and of the world that awaits her on the other side.  Her family will desperately miss her.

Rae is survived by her husband, CDR James “Jay” Hickey, PhD, USN (ret), three daughters, Erin Hickey (Tina), Shawn Waldeck (Adam), and Caitlin Hickey (Joe), her two adoring grandchildren Ashton and Aubree, a nephew, and numerous nieces.  She was predeceased by her brother Richard R. “Randy” Petitt, Jr.

A funeral was held Tuesday, December 28, 2021 at the North Kingstown United Methodist Church in North Kingstown. Burial took place at the Rhode Island Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to “Sami’s SendOffs” (, a teen-founded 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to supporting children fighting cancer. Finally, at Rae’s request, please join the family in a spirit of celebration not mourning ­— wear bright colors instead of black.

For online messages of condolence, kindly visit

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