Obituary: Joan Fanelli, lesbian-bar owner and animal lover, 82

Joan Fanelli, owner of a former local lesbian bar and Camden governmental employee, died Jan. 10 at age 82.

Fanelli, of Swedesboro, N.J., was previously a teacher at Cathedral Academy in Camden and the chief housing inspector for the city of Camden.

Fanelli also owned a few different bars for women back in the 1970s, including Sneakers Bar and The Upstairs.

“She was an icon in the gay scene,” said Brenda Sims, Fanelli’s longtime friend. “There weren’t a lot of clubs for women. Joan was able to successfully put together a couple.

“She was a wonderful person,” Sims said. “I have some very good memories of her. Mostly, it would be her welcoming attitude when you entered her home. If she didn’t know you, she welcomed you in. If she did know you, [she] would [say], ‘Good to see you’ and a hug. She was always there and gave us all a home to go to for entertainment.”

Fanelli worked in Camden for years and performed house investigations for the city.

“She took her responsibilities very seriously,” Sims said. “She will be greatly missed, not only by humans. She picked her friends wisely and was just a really, really good person.”

Not only was Fanelli a loving person to humans, she also had a soft spot for animals, according to Sims.

“She was extremely good with animals and rescuing animals. When she worked for the city of Camden, a lot of what she did was help rescue animals, especially ones running outside.”

Sims also cared for her life partner, Corinne Cronin.

“She was there for her no matter what,” Sims said.

Fanelli also sponsored a softball team in the 1970s called The Laces.

Fanelli is survived by life partner Cronin and cousins Robert West, Eleanor Neihart, Joan Anderson and the late Andrew and John West.

Donations in honor of Fanelli can be made to the Voorhees Animal Orphanage.

Memorial services will be held privately.