Oct 12, 2008
Joyce and I met on Thanksgiving Day, 1971. While it wasn’t quite love at first sight, it was close. We spent most of the weekend together, had our first date on Friday, and I cooked her a meal on Saturday. We spoke every night the following week and I drove from New London to Yonkers to see her the following Friday night. That evening, as we sat together, I told her i had fallen in love with her. Joyce’s comment was, “I was wondering which of us would say it first.”
Five weeks after we met, on January second, 1971, we became engaged. I later learned that Joyce, her mother, and aunts had already planned our wedding. We were so much in love that the only question was when we would become engaged.
On August 27th, we were married at her aunt and uncle’s home in Livingston, New Jersey. Rabbi Charles Annas officiated. As we stood under the chuppah, Rabbi Annas told us that no matter what we thought at the time, our love was only beginning, and that as we lived ad shared our lives, that love would grow. I am pleased to say that Rabbi Annas was right. Our love only increased over the last 36 years.
And the love of a man and wife was only one of Joyce’s loves. There was her love of our children and grandson and the love she gave so willingly to all her friends.
But perhaps the best indication of who Joyce was was her love of teaching.
Whether teaching elementary school, junior high school, high school–each of which she did at different times–her great joy–other than family–was watching a student learn. Officially, she taught English, but she taught far more than grammar and literature. She taught the love of books, the joy of learning, and the zest for knowledge. Whether in the Peace Corps, where she taught medical students English (so they could more readily obtain and read up-to-date textbooks and journals) or a parochial school in Florida, Joyce unflinchingly gave of herself and enriched to many others.
It is no accident that when she changed careers, she went from the classroom to the children’s section of the library. What better way to teach the love of learning than in a house of books.
She even taught a hard-headed engineer the meaning of unconditional love.
We were a somewhat conventional family. When Michael came along, Joyce decided that her place was in the home as a full-time mom. If the proof of a pudding in in the tasting, the proof of a mom is in the children she raised. Yes, I was there, but I know who had the bigger influence on our children. They are Joyce’s handiwork and they are her proudest accomplishment.
Today, as we lay Joyce to rest after a long and terrible illness, Michael and Elizabeth are beside me and susan is with us in Spirit. We thank God for letting us have one of his most perfect creations for so long and know that there is a classroom in heaven waiting for Joyce to fill with love and joy, as she filled our lives.
Rest in peace my darling.
–Jeff Zarkin, loving husband of Joyce Gurian Zarkin