Life Story / Obituary
A woman of few words, Joyce Marilyn (Long) Perry’s quiet kindness, gentle care, and creative spirit gently inspired all who came to share time with her. A devoted mother and grandmother, Joyce relished in sharing time with her family. Whether playing a challenging game of Scrabble, teaching the children to “take the time to smell the flowers,” or exploring the trails at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, Joyce embraced life with wonder, wisdom, and gratitude. Though she will be deeply missed, Joyce’s legacy of love will long live in the hearts and lives of those who knew her best.
Born in Grand Rapids, MI on May 9, 1928, Joyce grew up in the rural small town of Caledonia, MI. She was the second of three children born to Forrest Dean and Estella Mae (Keefer) Long, which included older brother Wendell “Wen” and younger sister, Donna. Joyce’s father spent his days tending the family farm, while her mother, a former teacher, ran the family household. Estella kept a neat house and required each of the children to perform various household chores. Joyce often told her daughters about the time it was her job to gather eggs. She forgot to bring the egg basket with her, so she stuffed them in her pockets and they broke! Forrest kept the family in music by playing an old upright piano, listening to the radio, and peppering the days with jokes and laughter. Sundays were spent at church and visiting with family.
Joyce inherited her father’s love of music and grew to be an accomplished clarinet and piano player. Not only did Joyce play clarinet in the Caledonia High School marching band, she also gave clarinet lessons in her family home. When not making music, Joyce enjoyed spending time looking at magazines and chit-chatting with her best friend, Louise. She also played on the school basketball team. While in school, Joyce worked at the local drugstore doing everything from making ice cream floats at the soda fountain to wrapping packages. (She taught her daughters to wrap gifts using the “drugstore method”). After graduating in 1946, Joyce worked as a secretary for the high school.
While out roller skating with friends, Joyce met Russell “Jack” Perry. Soon the two began arranging to be each other’s skating partner when the music changed, and their love blossomed. The happy couple married on June 18th, 1949 and much to their hearts’ delights soon welcomed their three daughters, Judy, Cindy, and Karen, into their family.
Devoted to her family, Joyce was a very involved mother. Her loving care centered in teaching her children right from wrong and to be responsible. Joyce thoroughly enjoyed playing softball and croquet in the backyard with the kids and also served as a 4H leader in Lucky 4 4H club in Gun Plain Township. The home enjoyed the good fun of several dogs and cats over the years including the time when the home included three dogs and two cats!
Joyce was a woman of many talents. She was an exceptional flower and vegetable gardener, and a recently discovered painting of a vase of flowers entitled “Flowers for Russell Jack Perry” revealed a hidden talent. Joyce had always claimed that all she could draw were stick figures.
Deeply generous, Joyce taught gardening and baking to others, (her baked goods were divine) freely giving away all that she knew and inspiring the love she had to ripple out to others’ homes. Joyce also embroidered many a lively piece, and her piano playing often filled her home with music. As a member and deaconess at Plainwell First Baptist Joyce shared her talents and warm heart with her treasured fellowship
Naturally hardworking, Joyce worked as a bookkeeper for Wholesale Plumbing Company and Landes Studios. She also served as a typesetter and film developer for the Commercial Art Department at Kalamazoo Label Company where she worked at Jack’s side. She made sure he made time for coffee breaks and that they went out to lunch every day to get their second wind for the afternoon. Their daughters used to joke that their car was set on “automatic pilot” for Bill Knapp’s, where they also enjoyed meals with their parents on many occasions.
Though Joyce enjoyed the many jobs she had outside of her home over the years, her favorite came after she retired in 1990 when she “rescued” her granddaughter Samantha from daycare! Samantha spent many an afternoon playing with Grandpa and Grandma and filling their days with much joy. Also with the pure joys of spending time with her grandchildren, Joyce loved flowers, trips to the zoo, playing Canasta, Cribbage, and Yahtzee and the splendors of beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Many a pie and lots of coffee were consumed at the Plainwell Big Boy, and many a delightful trip to visit Cindy’s family in Indian River was had.
In 2011, after 62 years of marriage, Joyce had to say goodbye to her husband and friend. Though the loss was enormous, Joyce continued to embrace the blessings of each day, often commenting on a spectacular sunset, or the variety of birds that frequented the many feeders, as she watched from her picture window overlooking the backyard.
Those who knew her would unhesitatingly agree that Joyce’s life centered on her family. She was a proud and devoted mother to her daughters whom she deeply loved and unfailingly supported. Her reserved and witty nature, coupled with her kind, caring ways made her a wonderful grandmother. Though the world is surely duller without Joyce’s steadfast light, her vibrant legacy will continue to brilliantly shine in the hearts and lives of those she leaves behind.
Loving wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, Joyce M. (Long) Perry passed away on March 5, 2017, at Life Care Center of Plainwell. Visit with her family and friends and view her life story film on Friday, May 19th at 11:00 a.m. at the Life Story Funeral Home, 120 S. Woodhams Street; Plainwell (685-5881).