Joyce Catherine (Dunn) Joyce, 84, formerly of South Orange and Spring Lake, N.J., passed away peacefully on October 13, 2020, at home in Tinton Falls, N.J., surrounded by her loving family.
Born in Elizabeth, Joyce was the second of four children born to Catherine Rita (Collins) and Francis Prahm Dunn. She attended Benedictine Academy and graduated from Caldwell College in 1958 with a B.A. in Elementary Education and English. A talented singer, Joyce often performed as a soloist accompanied by her mother, a musician and songwriter whose wartime music was played by the Tommy Dorsey band. Joyce was “discovered” at one of her singing engagements by renowned jazz pianist and vocal coach Tony Tamburello, who asked her to record with him and tour professionally. Though flattered, Joyce chose to continue teaching elementary school, and shortly thereafter met her future husband, James Joyce, who was hosting weekend dances for singles while teaching Latin in public schools during the week. Joyce Dunn became Joyce Joyce when they married the following year on August 4, 1962 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in South Orange.
Joyce and Jim began their life together in Livingston, NJ before moving to South Orange in 1971, where they restored a 15-room 1894 Queen Anne Victorian and raised six daughters. For 35 years they enjoyed sharing their home with family and friends, creating a lifetime of great memories. Much time was spent in the music room at the piano and listening to her grandchildren’s impromptu playing. Joyce loved to entertain and friends who might pop by to say hello could often be found hours later, still chatting with a cup of tea on the wrap-around front porch. Members of the Montrose Park Historic District Association, Joyce and Jim were proud caretakers of their beautiful historic home, lovely garden and neighborhood, opening their home for an MPHDA house tour. They were delighted when their home was chosen to be featured in the architecture book “The Queen Anne House: America’s Victorian Vernacular.”
Joyce loved a good conversation, and had a gift for listening and giving wonderful advice. An eloquent writer, her favorite spot to write was at her secretary in the library, composing beautiful notes to family and friends. Joyce truly loved to keep in touch by picking up the phone and could have calls that lasted for hours. She cared deeply for others and had a special way of making them feel important.
Joyce was a lifelong educator, from her early days in the 1960s teaching at Gregory School in West Orange, N.J., and then in the 1980s teaching fourth grade at Madison Monroe School in Elizabeth, N.J., until her retirement in 1998. Joyce enjoyed researching her Irish and Scottish roots, was an avid reader who loved learning, took post-grad education courses and earned her real estate license while continuing to sing and enjoy music out of the spotlight.
In 2006, Joyce and Jim moved to Spring Lake where they continued to host their ever-growing family while creating new memories at the Jersey Shore: walking and biking along the boardwalk, cocktails with dear friends and with family at the oceanfront Breakers Hotel, attending local plays and concerts.
“Nana” cherished her 15 grandchildren and enjoyed spoiling them with ice cream and endless summer sleepovers “down the Shore.” She enthusiastically cheered and attended her grandchildren’s games, recitals, and concerts, as well as Seton Hall University Pirates basketball games, Jim’s alma mater.
In 2012, Joyce recorded an album as a gift to family and friends. Made for posterity, My Best to You included five original songs written by her mother as well as some of her favorite songs from the Great American Songbook. She reunited with her dear friend Mary Jo Deignan as piano accompanist, recording their sessions at a studio in Vermont – as students at Caldwell College they had performed as the duo Deignan and Dunn. This album was an expression of her life in an embrace to both the “Road Not Taken” and the “Road That Was.” The description of Joyce in her college yearbook, “Voice of a nightingale, heart of a mother, hand of a friend,” left little doubt that this was the path that was meant to be, and it was a prophecy she fulfilled to perfection.
Her daughters are forever grateful for their fun-filled upbringing and their mother’s adventuresome spirit. She had a gift for making the ordinary feel special. With Jim, she instilled a sense of adventure, taking annual family camping trips along the east coast from Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia to the Florida Keys. Joyce loved spending time with family in Vermont, Maine, and Mexico City, vacationing with Jim in Ireland, the UK and Europe, and cycling Block Island, RI -one of their favorite places.
Joyce led a beautiful life filled with faith, family, and friends. She will be remembered for her sparkling blue eyes, natural beauty, lovely singing voice, ready smile, laughter at a good joke, and her patience, kindness and generosity. She lived her life by the prayer of Saint Francis: as an instrument of peace she brought love, faith, hope, light, and joy to all who knew her. She will be missed, but her angelic voice and fond memories remain. She was truly a benevolent matriarch who relished in the love of extended family and friends too numerous to mention.
Joyce is survived by her adoring husband of 58 years, James C. Joyce; her loving children MaryBeth Joyce-Brown (David), Kerry Whitcomb, Jacqueline Joyce-Schuldt (Carl), Sharon Purce (Joseph), Catherine Kumar (Jay), and Jennifer Garcia-Joyce (Gilberto), and also her beloved grandchildren: Emily, Margaret, and Catherine Brown; Hannah Whitcomb; James, Caroline-Ruby and Johann Schuldt; Fiona, Joseph, Sean and Catherine Purce; Connell and Lily Kumar; and Mateo and Olivia Garcia-Joyce. She also leaves behind her loving siblings Bonnie Rae Tallagnon (Dennis) of Maine and Thomas Dunn of New Hampshire, sister-in-law Sheila Priest, and brothers-in-law Walter Joyce (Dorothy), Fr. Michael Joyce, OFM, and Brian Joyce (Deirdre), adored nieces and nephews, as well as her cherished friends.
She was predeceased by her parents, sister Carol Shehadi and her husband Fred, dear aunt Theresa Collins Dunn, sisters-in-law Sr. Marianne Joyce and Colleen Kelly, brother-in-law Patrick Priest, and also lifelong friend Lynn Sweeney.
A mass arranged by a friend in Joyce’s memory was held on October 18, 2020, at Ards Friary in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, Ireland.
Given the health risks of travel and large gatherings posed by COVID-19, services will be private and a memorial service will be held at a later time. In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made in Joyce’s memory to Foundation Fighting Blindness (ffb.org) or in Joyce’s name to establish a music education scholarship c/o Caldwell University, Development Office, 120 Bloomfield Ave., Caldwell, NJ 07006.