A Tribute to Joyce Ann Kennedy
read at her Memorial Service on November 2, 2002 by her daughter, Katherine Burton Jones
At a time like this, my mother would not be at a loss for words. Because I have had difficulties deciding what to say since my sisters asked me to speak at this service, I decided to ask my mother once again to help me. She always knew the right thing to say at the right time whether it was to soothe hurts when we were little, teach a class or in an evening of conversation with friends. Thank you, Mom, for showing me the way. And thank you also to my dear sisters for your help.
My mother, Joyce Ann, was many things to all of us who are gathered to celebrate her life and to the others who could not be here today. She had many roles: mother, educator, wife, daughter, sister, grandmother, artist, writer and more. We would use these words to describe her: giving, loving, selfless, smart, beautiful, witty, wild, daring, protective, and amazing!
She was born in Leeds, Alabama in 1931 to Birdie Garrett and Hubert Spence Bagby. She was of Welsh and Creek Indian heritage. She saw many things as a child that shaped her life including the tar-and-feathering of an unfortunate man. She moved to Jacksonville in 1939 but never lost her endearing Alabama accent. She never forgot the stories of her childhood there and told them to us when we were young. One of our favorites was about the man who moved her family to Florida. His name was Hosey Pipe and his daughters were named Strawberry and Vanilla.
Joyce Ann was incredibly smart. She moved up a grade in school and graduated before she was sixteen from Robert E. Lee High School. She attended Florida State University for a short time before marrying my father, Leslie Jones. She had both good times and bad times with my father.
Her greatest joy was in her children. She was our dedicated mother and our friend. It is not often, I am told, that you can have both in the same person. She was creative in so many ways. She would sing to us, draw for us, produce plays with us, and help us with homework. She made sure that each one of us felt her love individually. She related to us each in a special way. By the time we were all finished with school my mother had the equivalent of 6 high school diplomas (including hers and Ramieís), at least three bachelorís degrees (including hers and Ramieís), and three masterís degrees (hers, mine and Beckyís). She was extremely proud of all that we did and do. She was sure that Becky and I would do well in our business pursuits, that Karen would be near her and take care of her and that Leslie would be the one who ignites the joy in all of our hearts. She made us feel that no matter what EVER happened, she would make it okay. What a gift she had - she was so nice to us, even when we were mean.
She was a surrogate mother to many including Marti and Liz. As Liz reminded us, ďshe kept us all supplied with Little Debbies, and she let us be childrenĒ. She would climb trees, jump rope, color in our coloring books and play with us. She was delighted by all of her grandchildren. She was grateful for her special relationship with Ramie and for the wonderful ones who came into her life later: Ashley, Fetoun, Greg, Tessa and Sean.
She was beautiful. She was loved by Stetson and Les and both were grateful for her beauty. Our boyfriends admired her especially during the high school years. Once we were stopped at the beach by some college guys and asked if we wanted to go and have some brews. Becky and I were mortified but proud - after all she was our mother even if she was mistaken for our girlfriend.
She was brave and undaunted by the snakes, toads and lizards that shared our environs on Brady Road. The saddest thing for her was the loss of our brother, Burt, when he was only two. She remembered him each year on the anniversary of his birth and death.
For many years, she was a single mother who made it possible for four daughters to be exceptional people, following in her footsteps. In the 1970s she and Stetson found each other. Stetson created an exotic life for her, building her a house, showing her parts of the world that she had only known through books and introducing her to a wonderful world of folklore and ethnic foods. This world included her daughters as well and we had a fantastic time on the Lake at Beluthahatchee.
During the almost thirty years that my mom and Stetson were married they had wonderful times with many friends. They shared Stetsonís fabulous cooking as well as their combined intellect. We are grateful for all of you, for the memories that you share with us and with them and for your constant friendship for my mother and Stetson. She was in many ways Stetsonís scholarly companion - in brainstorming for new projects, editing speeches and publications, working as his research assistant on his recent book, in working tirelessly to help him with his electronic correspondence and being the person to bring him into the electronic age. Above all she was his dear and brave girl.
Being the exceptional person that she was my mother returned to school in her forties and received her bachelorís degree from UNF in 1974. From that time on she was a teacher at San Jose Elementary. In 1983 she received her masterís degree in elementary education.
To her teaching was not just a job - it was a major part of her life. She was dedicated to her students and touched thousands of lives in her long career as an educator. As many of you know she taught ESOL kindergarten. She used the Multiple Intelligences methodology to teach children who were pre-literate and non-English speakers. She never backed down from what must have been an everyday challenge. She recorded the highlights of her teaching career in a book, soon to be published, that will be a guide for new teachers.
She loved what she did and told the world about it by creating San Joseís web site. Visitors from many countries came to see her at San Jose because of this and the work of my mother and her colleagues. She found many friends at San Jose. For many years the Cheyenne Social Club held regular meetings at her house. There were some friends who left San Jose but never left her heart like Mary Ellen, Joyce Blue and Suzy. There were others who helped shape her career and she theirs like Maggie and Diane. She loved all of you who are still at San Jose especially her special friends, Beth, Hope, and Vangie.
She got her start in teaching here at the Church of Our Savior where she was a preschool teacher on Sundays during the many years that we were members of the congregation.
She was excited by learning and continued to learn through all of us as well as through her great love of reading.
My mom loved the community that she lived in and was proud to have been in Mandarin for so many years. She loved this history of the place and wrote about it. She worked with others including my sister, Karen, to make the Mandarin Museum and Historical Society grow and take its place in the community. The memorials to Miss Aggie and the Jones family were dear to her heart.
At her home she was surrounded by nature. Each evening a chorus of frogs would serenade her. Raccoons thought that they were her pets and looked in on her while she was sick. Snow, the egret, was her pet and continues to count on Stetson for a fish a day. Other inhabitants of the lake would hang out at the house of a regular basis. My mom would always be watchful not to encounter the alligator when she had to go under the house. Cats abounded and were her favorite pets, especially Bandit and Smoky. She loved this place and was glad to be able to spend her last days at home.
When she left us this October she was surrounded by all of this as well as by Stetson and my sisters and me.
In closing, I would like to leave you with a quote from Kahlil Gibran as a challenge from my mother who loved you all,
Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry,
the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness
which does not bow before children.