Joyce Armstrong, of Belmont, has left her beloved family and friends and entered into eternity. Joyce was the heart of her family, along with her loving husband of sixty-six years, David George Armstrong, whom she called “Daddy” throughout their years, journeyed to heaven in 2017.
Once in a blue moon, is a treasure such as Joyce given over ninety-two years to model kindness and grace. There were times to weep and times to laugh, times to mourn and times to dance. Joyce lived those things - in the garden, on the dance floor, in the classroom, and around the dining room table full of family and friends. Her life was brimming with goodness which was always shared with those she loved.
Joyce was born in Greensburg, Kentucky at the cusp of America’s Great Depression. She was the first born child of Anna and Leonard Powell. During her early life, her parents owned a dry-goods store in Albany, Kentucky which provided for them during the depression years. Later, at around 7 years of age, they sold their store and moved to a large working farm in Monticello, Kentucky which left her with a lifetime of good memories of helping to raise the many farm animals, planting large vegetable gardens, and picking tobacco worms off the tobacco plants. At around the age of ten, her parents sold the farm and bought a mountain in Tennessee where her father mined coal. At this time they moved back to Albany which was where Joyce met the love of her life, on a very rainy morning and her first day of school – 12 year old David Armstrong opened the door to what he described as a drowned cat. He showed her to her classroom; they became fast friends, and they never let go.
They were married on Easter Sunday, March 25, 1951, after David returned from World War II. A time of war became a time of peace, as the couple spent their first few years in Kentucky. They ventured into the unknown territory of Michigan, with only $100 in their pocket, a small cocker spaniel, and their little baby girl - Susan. It was here that they spent 65 years of their lives, lovingly raising their children, working, and developing lifelong friendships. This was their time to sow.
There was never a dull moment in the Armstrong family. Their first house in Northview, was followed by their forever home in Belmont; a farm house with a barn, creek, and 10 acres of land. Over the years, flower gardens were established, 500 trees planted, animals filled the barn, rooms were redesigned, and antiques became as plentiful as the flowers in their yard. Antiques later became a side business enjoyed by the whole family. For all their years living in the “mitten” their southern relationships with their extended family and friends remained of great importance, and all of their family vacations were lovingly spent in Albany.
Joyce became an accomplished teacher; her love for teaching lasted a lifetime. As a child, she taught children she met on the mountain to read and write using a stick to scratch letters in the dirt. Many of these children saw their names written for the first time. This made a strong lasting impression. Joyce attended Western Kentucky State Teacher’s College (University) where she remembered playing basketball taught by legendary basketball coach Ed Diddle. He would shout, “Give it to little blue eyes!”
Joyce started teaching school at the young age of 20 (1948) in her hometown of Albany, Kentucky, due to receiving an emergency teaching certificate; she was able to teach for three years before finishing her degree. Her youngest brother, David Arden was a student in her first grade classroom. David Arden liked to share the story about receiving a memorable spanking in her classroom for making flying airplanes. Joyce graduated from Western Kentucky in 1955, was recruited for a teaching position in Michigan, and quickly dove into the profession she was made to pursue - teaching.
Joyce taught for many years in the Northview School District of Grand Rapids, Michigan. There, she was renowned for pioneering her own individualized phonics-based reading program. “Every child needs to read,” she would say, and read, they did. She later became the Assistant Superintendent in charge of Curriculum Development. Her special education program became so successful that it spread to other school districts. Joyce achieved her Master’s degree in education from Michigan State University; she also held seminars to help others to implement her special education programs in their schools. She was a tireless worker throughout her career, always looking out for the less fortunate, and instilled in others that you can do absolutely anything in life that you set your mind to doing.
Joyce Armstrong was never alone in her final years, especially after her husband passed away three years prior to her own home-going. Her family has fond memories of watching Andy Griffith – a show that reminded her of days gone by. More stories shared, more tender moments tucked away, and more joy to be treasured for the future. On the morning she slipped away into heaven, a large October moon gave way to soft sun rays shining through her bedroom window. Forever embraced in loving arms. Ninety-two years of life, and a gentle good-bye. To everything there is a season.
David and Joyce’s family consists of their four living children, Susan (Benjie) Lapus, Deborah (Steve) Milanowski, Laura (Jim) VanDerBos, and David II (Lindy) Armstrong. Joyce is also survived by her beloved grandchildren, Cristina (Chris) Lapus Knee, Joseph (Elena) Lapus, Michael Lapus, Jennifer (Brent) Lapus Verlin, Eric (Melanie) Milanowski, Ashleigh Domany Milanowski, Emily Milanowski, Mollie (Mel) VanDerBos Drake, James (Macey) VanDerBos, David VanDerBos, Olivia, Maxwell, and Samuel Armstrong. Her great -grandchildren: Samantha and Matthew Knee, Julia and Benjamin Lapus, Emerson Lapus, Ellasyn Verlin, Jordan Domany, Shaun and Ford Milanowski; and her brother, David Arden (Rebecca) Powell, and brother-in-law, Elliott Armstrong.
Joyce Armstrong was preceded in death by their first son David Michael in infancy, and her beloved grandson Daniel David Milanowski , her siblings, Barbara Powell Rianhard, Shirley Powell Norris, and Max Powell. Many dear friends remained like family throughout her life. Joyce was laid to rest in a family plot next to her beloved husband on a hilltop in the Plainfield Township Cemetery in Belmont, Michigan. Please consider Emmanuel Hospice of Grand Rapids or Albany United Methodist Church for expressions of sympathy.
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