Deliberate and sentimental to the end, Joyce, 83, of Wauwatosa, Wis., and formerly of Waupaca, passed away on the beautiful spring morning of May 14, 2013 — on the same date at the same age as her beloved husband eight years prior.
Joyce’s entire life was a love letter to Ed, whom she respected, admired and adored every day since the very first, when she saw him watering geranium plants at the Waupaca Floral Co. greenhouse. She asked if she could smoke, he said yes, and it was then that they became a “they.” They had a whirlwind courtship, dancing at the casino at the Chain O’ Lakes, sipping martinis at Hotel Dobbins during dress-up dinner dates, and sharing burgers and beer at the Windmill Bar after work. They were so in love, they married themselves that year, on a small stone bridge over the Crystal River with paper rings from two White Owl cigars. They made it official the following year and had a daughter, with Ed’s nose and Joyce’s nurturing nature, the year after that. They had a son, with Ed’s wavy hair and wit, and another daughter, with Joyce’s ocean-blue eyes and sweet singing voice, and shared 10 homes in seven Wisconsin cities. Joyce and Ed traveled together, golfed together, gardened together and maintained a lifelong two-person cribbage tournament.
When her darling Ed passed away in 2005, Joyce devoted her days to documenting their 56-year love story and filling in the gaps of their family and personal history scrapbooks, an intricate undertaking for which Joyce employed her limitless curiosity, remarkable memory, and deep passion for research and writing. Her years of dedication resulted in a closet full of cherished facts and memories: 9 binders full of love letters to and from Ed; 21 photo albums of the family they created; and 11 scrapbooks of the families they came from. In addition to genealogy and storytelling, Joyce had a talent for painting, singing, composing, decorating, directing, acting and sewing. And she was skilled enough to have done any of them for money but instead did them for joy. She loved trains, lighthouses, birds, and butterflies and was exceptionally fond of Blue Bunny super fudge brownie ice cream. She looked dynamite in a head scarf, had “Betty Grable legs” (said one suitor), and aged beautifully. She reminisced often about her childhood playmate, Tuffy the terrier-bulldog mix; the one-room schoolhouse where she developed her love for learning and reading; and her true love, Ed, whom she’ll finally meet again. May God bless this inspirational woman, who woke up in pain every morning for the past three years but still answered “Not too bad!” or “Pretty good!” when asked how she was feeling. And may we all possess even a fraction of her grit, grace and steadfast spirit in the face of illness, adversity and aging.
Joyce is survived by her three children, Libby Ernest of Wauwatosa, Wis.; John (Sue) Ernest of Libertyville, Ill.; and Susan (Casey) Stengel of Bozeman, Mont.; five grandchildren, Lauren Osborne (Tim) Miller, Carolyn (Danny) Sizemore, Greg Ernest, Michelle Morton and Karen Stengel; her brother Duane Durrant of Janesville, Wis.; and special nieces and nephews.
A private celebration will be held in June. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in Joyce’s name to The Ridges Sanctuary, P.O. Box 152, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202.