Joan Gulledge was a frequent visitor to the SPCA of Wake County’s two animal shelters.
She walked around the cat and dog areas to see who was adopted and who is still waiting. She stopped to catch up with volunteers and staff. Joan was one of many visitors who makes routine trips to the SPCA’s Pet Adoption Center in Raleigh. Some regular visitors come every few weeks, and some have been coming for years. However, what set Joan’s visits apart from most other visitors to the adoption center is her perspective. Joan was looking at the SPCA of Wake County through the eyes of someone who helped shape and grow the organization into a state leader of animal cruelty prevention and animal welfare.
Joan’s love for the SPCA was contagious. When you spent just a few minutes with her, and you could see how proud she is of the organization she helped build. Joan was more humble about her contributions than she should be, so we thought we’d speak up about her role as a founding mother. Over the years, Joan has done it all, from cleaning windows to serving on the board of directors. Joan was chairman of the SPCA membership committee, and she sold stationery to raise money. No task was too small, and Joan never said, “That isn’t my job.” Joan also served as the SPCA’s archivist, collecting hundreds of newspaper articles over the years that documented the organization’s activities and impact on the greater Raleigh community. We cherish these pieces of history and wouldn’t have a detailed understanding of the organization’s history if Joan hadn’t been thoughtfully recording it.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
A few years ago, Joan sat down with us and chatted about life and the SPCA’s early days. In early 1967, Mrs. Martha Gappins passed away and left $5,000 of her estate to the Raleigh SPCA. The trustee called around in search of an animal welfare society in the state capital – only none existed. The call eventually found two leaders in Raleigh’s philanthropic community: Dot Helms and Diana Maupin. Both women had a love for animals and knew that the city of Raleigh desperately needed a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The women placed a public meeting announcement for the new group in the Raleigh Times, and it caught Joan’s eye. More than 200 people attended the first interest meeting, held in downtown Raleigh at the S&W Cafeteria.
That meeting gave the fledgling group the volunteers it needed and the SPCA’s articles of incorporation were filed just days later on June 7, 1967. Four women emerged as those who would be most involved in charting the course of the SPCA’s early history: Dot Helms, Diana Maupin, Cookie McGee, and Joan Gulledge.
A 1971 Grand Opening
When the SPCA built the region’s first animal shelter on U.S. 70 in Garner, Joan was part of the team setting up the shelter ahead of its opening.
Joan recalls the very first animal who arrived at the new shelter – a full week before it even opened. On this particular day, Joan and Cookie were at the facility making preparations for a truck full of supplies that would arrive later that week. The windows were still covered with paper, and the women had locked themselves in the building, knowing they weren’t expecting deliveries that day.
They were quite surprised to hear a knock at the door. Joan opened the door, and the woman standing outside said, “I need to get rid of this thing,” referring to the golden retriever at her side.
Joan explained that the shelter wasn’t even open, that they were still getting the building ready and didn’t have bowls or dog food or any supplies needed to care for the dog. Joan asked the woman to take the dog home and if in a week she still felt the same way, the shelter would be open and could help.
Joan and Cookie went back to work but heard a scratch at the door a few minutes later. The woman had driven off and left the dog behind.
They decided that Cookie would take the dog home until the facility officially opened, but Joan says the dog never needed to look for another home after leaving with Cookie that evening.
Thank you Joan, for being the cause of so much good.