Janey E. Joyce, a woman of many talents who rose from obituary writer to city editor at The Commercial over a six year period in the late 1960s and early 1970s, died Tuesday evening in San Antonio at the age of 83.
Her editor at the time was the legendary Paul Greenberg, who served as editorial page editor of The Commercial from 1962 until 1992 minus a one-year stint writing editorials for the Chicago Daily News in the late 1960s.
“She was an absolute dynamo,” Greenberg said of Joyce. “She found herself in a number of difficult positions throughout a long and varied life. She would always adapt, come up, and keep her spirits up. I never saw her tired or discouraged. She made a perfect match for her husband — Rev. [Aristide] Steed Joyce — an Episcopal priest. He was a great big Falstaffian figure with a magnificent basso profondo voice.”
Greenberg allowed that he jumped at every opportunity to visit with the couple.
“I made excuses to go by their house on Sunday afternoons and while away the time talking,” Greenberg said. “Janey wrote so many exposes and features for The Commercial. She was also a crackerjack city editor. I had forgotten that she was a little lady because her personality was so big.”
Joyce’s son Kevin Joyce remembered the difficult writing assignments his mother took on during her time at the newspaper.
“When I was growing up she was a stay-at-home mom,” Kevin Joyce said of his mother. “She started at The Commercial when I was a teenager. It was in the late 1960s. She started out on the obit desk. She was told that if she knew how to write it would be clear to everyone very quickly. Once she became a reporter her beat was the school boards and education and it was during that time that the integration of the schools was going on. She covered quite a few extremely long and very emotional school board meetings. There were some tough things going on in Pine Bluff then.”
The family moved from Houston to Pine Bluff in 1963.
“I was going into the sixth grade so I would have been 12 when we came to Pine Bluff,” Kevin Joyce said. “So we moved from a big city to a little-bitty town. But Pine Bluff was a nice place to grow up.”
Kevin Joyce said his father became a priest later in life — after his children were grown.
“Dad went to seminary in Austin, Texas, in 1972 and Mom started working for the Austin American-Statesman,” Kevin Joyce said. “After he finished seminary he was assigned to an Episcopal church in Springdale, Ark., and Mom got a job with the newspaper there.”
Kevin Joyce laughed about the fact that his mother was one of those people who look much younger than they actually are.
“After she got her last newspaper job in Amarillo, Texas, with the Amarillo Globe, my older brother and I were at the age where we didn’t fit in with mom’s perceived age range,” Kevin Joyce said. “So she told her colleagues at the paper ‘these are my husband’s children from his first wife.’ Now every word of that is true, even though everyone she told that to assumed she was not his first wife even though she was his one and only wife.”
Kevin Joyce said that his mother retired from the Globe a little more than 10 years ago.
“My mother’s wishes were that upon her death she be cremated and that she be buried with my father, whose grave is in Amarillo,” Kevin Joyce said. “She told us that this is what she wanted even if it wasn’t allowed. Luckily it is so we don’t have to come up with some elaborate plan to get her ashes interred with Dad.”
Joyce is remembered as an avid reader.
“Mom was always reading,” Kevin Joyce said. “She read extensively. While she didn’t graduate from college she was one of the smartest people that I knew. If I was a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and they asked me whether I wanted to poll the audience or phone a friend I would be talking to Mom.”
Beverly Joyce is Kevin’s wife and a Pine Bluff native.
“Janey was a very vibrant and intelligent lady,” Beverly Joyce said. “She knew the right questions to ask. If I had something on my mind she knew what to ask to help to get clarity on the issue. She had that ability about her.”
Valerie Joyce is the wife of Kevin’s brother Michael Joyce.
“I knew Janey for 36 years,” Valerie Joyce said. “I’ve been in the family for 36 years. She was just a wonderful woman who continuously reinvented herself through the years, most recently through working in the field of genealogy. She was a great cook; she loved antiquing and went river rafting with her granddaughter. She also loved to travel. She was a very dear friend; not just a mother-in-law. I’m going to miss her dearly.”
Janey Joyce and her family attended Grace Episcopal Church during their time in Pine Bluff and church secretary Susan Grygiel attributes her long-time membership there to the Joyce family.
“The Joyces came here in 1963 even before I got here,” Grygiel said. “They were part of the reason I came to Grace. Steed [Joyce] and Harry Swanson stood at the sanctuary door in their choir robes every Sunday and greeted everybody coming to church. After being greeted by them the second Sunday I decided that I wanted to be a member of church that is so friendly.”
“Janey and her husband were the kinds of friends you wanted to see everyday,” Grygiel said. “They could talk about anything and do it well. Janey was very well-read and writing was one of her pleasures. She was the kind of mother to her children that I hoped to be to mine. I’m sure her four sons treasure their memories.”
District 4 Justice of the Peace Mandy Alford attended Grace Episcopal with the Joyces.
“Janey was very active in our church as was her husband,” Alford said. “They brought a great deal of enthusiasm into our community. If there was something going on at the church she made sure that it got into the paper.”