BREMERTON — She was known as someone who never gave up on anyone or anything.
Linda Joyce fought to help survivors of domestic violence. She fought to honor women and their achievements and she fought cancer to the very end, working through chemotherapy and several stays in the hospital.
But Joyce succumbed to her battle with cancer March 22.
“She was a fighter for what she believed in to the end of her life,” said her good friend Vivi-Ann Parnell. “We will forever keep Linda’s smile and laugh in our hearts and she will forever be missed.”
Parnell, who worked with Joyce on the board of the Kathleen Sutton Foundation, said Joyce taught her compassion.
“She had a contagious positivity,” Parnell said. “There was such an honesty ingrained in her. I always admire her positive look on life. Linda brought not only her experience and skills to the Kathleen Sutton Fund board, she brought her love for life, compassion, her dedication for the less fortunate in life and, last but not least, her humor.’
Joyce was 62. Her son was with her at the time of her death at Martha & Mary in Poulsbo, where she resided since February.
Joyce was honored last June with an official retirement party, attended by more than 200. It was there that Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido summed up what many people think of when they think of Joyce.
“It’s that laugh,” Garrido said. “We all love your laugh.”
Garrido spoke about a time when she worked for the YWCA on Bainbridge Island and helped put together the plans for the Y-ALIVE domestic violence shelter.
“Linda, you are a complete treasure,” Garrido said. “Every day each of us think about you. We love your sense of sisterhood. We love your sense of community.”
Garrido also mentioned something else that Joyce is known for. “And any of us who have gotten a note from you, cherish it because of your beautiful handwriting,” she said.
This week, Garrido said, “Linda Joyce leaves a wonderful legacy of giving in our community. Her commitment to addressing domestic violence issues is certainly well known. She was the driving force behind Kitsap County’s ‘Women of Achievement’ celebration. So many of Linda’s qualities — her beautiful spirit, unique laugh, and devotion to family, friends and community — will be remembered fondly. I will miss her.”
YWCA board member Harriette Bryant remembered Joyce as a force behind the YWCA for so many years.
“Linda leaves with us a legacy that will forever be in our hearts,” Bryant said. “Her work at the YWCA made her a champion of change. Someone simply put it, ‘Like a pebble in a pond, the ripples of her transformative work to end racism and empowering women will last for decades.’”
H. Emily Moshay, long-time Bremerton resident, had known Joyce for more than 20 years.
“I met her when she first came to Bremerton,” Moshay said. “She was someone who liked and loved everybody. She always found the best in everyone.”
Moshay said if she hadn’t seen Joyce in a while, when she did, Joyce would say, “I’ve had you on my mind,” and Moshay said, “You knew she meant that.”
Kitsap County Sheriff Gary Simpson, who serves on the YWCA board, said he will miss her smile and “that laugh.”
“She truly believed in her mission and she lived her mission to end domestic violence,” he said. “I was just so honored when she asked me to serve on the board. She was a friend to everyone and she encouraged everybody to be their best.”
Joyce’s pastor, Richmond Johnson of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Bremerton, said Linda’s specialness came from the fact that she had the love of the Lord in her.
“She was a phenomenal woman,” Johnson said. “She brought out the best in people because she appreciated everybody. She’d find the one gift they had and she’d find a use for it. She encouraged them to lead with their gift. She loved everybody even when they didn’t love her back.”
Former Kitsap County Auditor Walt Washington called Joyce an “icon.”
“She was an inspiration to me in so many ways,” Washington said. “She encouraged me to step up and run for office. She was the reason why I entered politics. I always thought of her like a little sister. Nothing was ever about her. It was always about somebody else.”
Joyce lived in Kitsap County for more than 20 years and came here when her then-husband, Rodney Joyce, was assigned to the Bremerton Navy base.
She announced her retirement from the YWCA last April after 20 years as leader of the women’s organization. Although she spent the last four years of that time working while undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer which was diagnosed in 2010, Joyce said the decision to retire was a difficult one for her.
“I’ve come to this decision in my life reluctantly,” Joyce said at the time. “[The YWCA] has been my heart, been my baby, been my soul.”
Since retirement, Joyce had been living at her home with the help of Hospice of Kitsap County and many friends who would stay overnight with her.
In February, when her family became concerned that she shouldn’t be alone during the day, she agreed to move to Martha & Mary.
Joyce began her career in social work. The Indiana native began working with domestic violence survivors in Southern California before coming to Kitsap County.
During her tenure that began in 1994, the YWCA relocated the organization from a rental to its permanent space on Pacific Avenue in Bremerton. They also renovated the Y’s ALIVE Shelter and added other programs that provide services for more than 6,000 people each year.
Joyce always said that she never intended on working when she moved to the Bremerton area, but that there “weren’t enough shoe stores at the mall” and she had to find something to do.
When she saw the advertisement in the paper for executive director of the YWCA in Bremerton, she wasn’t even sure she’d apply.
“I called and got the application sent to me,” Joyce said in an interview in May. “It took me more than a week to fill it out because I kept trying to talk myself out of it. What changed my mind was that everyone I talked to at the YWCA was so friendly.”
Joyce grew up in Gary, Indiana, one of seven children. Her father worked in a steel mill and her mother was a cafeteria worker for the public schools.
She called her family traditional and religious, having gone to the Baptist church weekly growing up. Her parents were married 66 years.
Her work with victims of domestic violence wasn’t something she did without knowing the need. She had been in an abusive relationship when she was young. As an unwed teenage mother at age 16, she finished high school and married the baby’s father. When he became abusive, she left.
She kept going to school and eventually graduated from college and got a job working for Indiana State Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. She was a social worker in the welfare department, helping other single women with children to find ways to make ends meet.
With this new stability, she also had her son, Dion, with her; her parents cared for him while she was in college.
She soon met Rodney Joyce and they were married. He was in the Navy and, within a few years, the Joyce family was transferred to Long Beach, California. They lived there for 12 years and Joyce continued working as a social worker.
The Navy next offered them a move to San Diego or Bremerton. They chose Bremerton.
Eventually, they divorced, but remained friends. She told friends that she was glad of that and he had visited her in her home a few months ago.
Joyce was well into her work at the YWCA and, after the divorce, despite her family being in California, leaving Kitsap County never crossed her mind, she said.
Her son, Dion Ingram, is a deputy sheriff in
Los Angeles County. Her grandson, Dion Jr., graduated from high school there in May and is studying dance and theater.
At the retirement event, Joyce thanked those who attended.
“The YWCA is my home,” she said. “It’s never been a job. It’s a mission. It’s a place where I’ve chosen to love the people who have loved me back. So my last words to you are, ‘I love you.’”
Services are 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 31, at the Kitsap Conference Center in downtown Bremerton. A viewing is noon to 7 p.m. Monday at Lewis Funeral Chapel in Bremerton.