THE FAMILY ALBUM: Aunt Joyce

Joyce Ann Clary-Riser Born 24 July 1933 – Died 11 December 202

Oh, how instead of just thinking of my Aunt Joyce, today, I could physically wish her a happy birthday.

Joyce Clary was the younger sister of my maternal grandmother, Donna Clary Barmes. Being nine years younger than Grandma Donna placed Joyce in a pretty neat position of being an aunt and bonus older sister to my mother, Diana. To me, my great aunt was simply known as Aunt Joyce.

The tales of pranks pulled off by Grandma Donna and Aunt Joyce are family legend and beyond attempting to repeat. They were the Mona Lisas of the joke world.

They were hard working farm girls born to a family of pioneers from Boone Township, Madison County, Indiana. They were born with the blood of pioneer and notable families of Jones, Noble, Greenlee, Ball, McCrory, and Vinson. Now, Aunt Joyce lies buried in the same family-pioneer cemetery of Forrestville with her line stretching to her third great-grandmother, Sarah Musselman Greenlee, buried in 1822.

I had many great-aunts but was always closest to my Aunt Joyce. Her daughters, Kim and Debbie, were two and five years younger than me, the closest in age of any of my cousins. We had so many adventures together, and when they were living in Florida, we made a number of trips to visit them.

One of my favorite things was when we recorded our greetings and stories into a GE cassette tape player to send Aunt Joyce and The Girls. They’d listen and then record over our voices to return to us. It was cheaper than long distance and not so rushed. I even recorded piano and organ music for Aunt Joyce. Once, I recorded “Beyond The Sunset,” and Mother did not get the tape sent until a few weeks later. Aunt Joyce said she sat at her kitchen table and sobbed as she listened to the hymn on her mother’s birthday; the hymn had been played at Grandma Belle’s funeral.

After Grandma Donna passed away in 1992, Aunt Joyce filled in as a bonus mother to Mother and a bonus grandma to us three children, Dena, Destin, and myself. It seemed only fitting for the new matriarch of the family to do. Plus, Kim and Debbie always felt more like sisters than just cousins, despite being Mother’s first cousins and our first cousins once removed.

Aunt Joyce has been gone for six months and this is the first earthly birthday she has not shared. Her death, preceded by my Mother, my brother, Dad, and several cousins, was the stick tossed into my own life’s bicycle spokes. She was my very last connection to all our family history and to all the family with which I had grown up.

After Mother’s passing on August 5, 2019, I only had several more visits with Aunt Joyce before The Quarantine began. From my cousin’s accounts, Aunt Joyce was ever much the Queen Bee and Doll of the assisted living facility in which she was an integral part, just as she was when she was an administrator for so many years.

Time has not truly eased the grief from these past six months. In some ways, it has been worse than losing Mother. Mother’s death was expected but Aunt Joyce, at 87, was a sudden departure.

My cousin, Debbie, sent me a photo of Aunt Joyce’s newly set gravestone. Her older brother, Ronald Monroe Clary, lays buried on the left of the stone, and her parents, Mary Belle Jones Clary and John William Garrett Clary are to the right. However, just behind Grandma Belle and Granda Garrett rests my grandparents, Donna Clary Barmes and Leroy Barmes.

The Sisters, dubbed, “Those damned girls” by their father, the main target of so many jokes, are reunited.

I have so many wonderful, fun memories of time spent with Aunt Joyce, yet, I still cannot shake the heavy sadness, that empty feeling her death created. I do hope, however, when my time comes Aunt Joyce will be the first one to greet me as I know there will be so much fun in store.

Happy first heavenly birthday, Aunt Joyce…

Know you are loved…

About Wright Flyer Guy

Darin is a single adoptive father, a teacher, playwright, and musical theatre director from Kettering, Ohio.
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