Published 6:00 am Sunday, February 24, 2019
Joyce Gordon is an old and dear friend of mine. So when I heard that her neighborhood church was planning a special recognition, I wanted very much to be there. But I wasn’t able because I had committed to be somewhere else at exactly the time her celebration was scheduled. So today I’m telling you all about Joyce and hoping she reads it and likes it.
I first met her years ago shortly before she lost her mother and began to know this remarkable woman who’d endured and overcome so much.
She’d been born in the tornado here in 1953, and when she wasn’t yet ten, she had been hit by a car and began a long, slow recovery whose outcome at the start was very uncertain and fearful. For years, she suffered its effects. But she went back to school and worked hard with her siblings.
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Then, while still a child, she lost her big brother, Arthur Melvin, who was fighting in Vietnam, and that news came on Thanksgiving Day, shortly after dinner with her family. Years later, standing in the place of her deceased “Gold Star Mother”, she commemorated his service at a special remembrance of those here in Vicksburg who had given their lives in that war. She stood in their honor with Vicksburg native Harvey Johnson who was then the mayor of Jackson. On the monument in the Rose Garden on Monroe Street, her brother’s name appears. Years later, his name figured prominently in the computer she bought for herself.
Effects from the accident lingered, but Joyce continued to thrive. To this day, her picture is prominent in class re-union photos and gatherings. She fought hard to overcome shyness and said one day that she wanted to read the scriptural passages aloud at Sunday Mass. So, she set about practicing, reading, recognizing and repeating the unfamiliar biblical allusions to ancient people and places. She overcame the shyness that once hindered her and is now a regular, popular reader.
Joyce is a fabulous dancer, undoubtedly motivated by sister siblings and nieces, whom she was determined to emulate and, I think, now outdoes them all. I have seen her dance with perfect strangers taken in by her style and steps and then, after the dance is over, shake their hands and say “My name is Joyce.”
She is also an avid patron of Vicksburg NRoute. I’m sure that she’s known by every driver in the system! After years of depending on people with cars — or simply not going at all — there’s hardly anything in Vicksburg she misses. You see her everywhere! She makes the most of her life!
Where she lives, she’s also the center of activity, ready to try something new, but committed in all her efforts, which was why the church across the street honored her.
I’m sorry I could not be there, Joyce. But I really wanted to be. So I hope that you’re reading this. And thanks for everything.
Yolande Robbins is a community correspondent for The Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org