Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Rosa Miller Hobbs Joyce died peacefully on August 22 at Dadeville Healthcare Center, where she had resided since March due to her declining health.
She was born in Selma, Alabama on August 2, 1919 and named for her maternal grandmother, whose birthday she shared. After graduating from Selma High School in 1937, she enrolled at Randolph Macon Woman’s College, where she graduated with a degree in English in 1941. She then studied at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference with Robert Frost before enrolling as a graduate student at Columbia University.
After Pearl Harbor she left graduate school for a job at the War Production Board in Washington, D C. She then enlisted in the newly formed WAVES to join her brothers in the U. S. Navy. She was part of the first WAVES officer training class. During the war she met John Howard Joyce, a Wisconsin-born pilot and flight instructor based at Pensacola. The Naval officers married in April, 1943, at the chapel of the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, where her father served in the Congress. The Reverend Dr. Peter Marshall officiated at their wedding.
After the war the young couple, by then parents of an infant daughter, returned to Wisconsin so that John could complete his engineering degree. The second of their five children was born there. They moved to Birmingham, Alabama upon his graduation in 1949. Two more children were born in Birmingham. In 1955 the family moved to Selma. Rosa Miller typed and edited the manuscript of family history that her mother had written in almost illegible longhand. The cooperative venture provided them precious time together, focusing on the stories they both treasured. Our Folks, their joint labor of love, was published shortly after her mother’s death in late 1956.
In early 1957 the Joyces moved into the Hobbs family home on Mabry Street. Their fifth child was born in 1959. As a busy housewife and mother in Selma, Rosa Miller was an active volunteer with the Girl Scouts, the Literacy Coalition, and the First Presbyterian Church, as well as her children’s schools. She was an ardent believer in the transformative power of education, whose foundation was the ability to read. With other concerned parents, she began an intensive tutorial program that met on weekends to help dyslexic children. Her most recent volunteer work was as a reading tutor at Knox School.
Her faithful Christian service through First Presbyterian Church included teaching Sunday school, leading church circle Bible study, serving as a Women of the Church officer as well as an Elder, and delivering Meals on Wheels. Long after most of her contemporaries had retired from active civic involvement Mrs. Joyce served on the Selma City School Board, eventually becoming its chairman.
She was active in the Selma Historical Society and thrice hosted guests at the family homeplace for its spring Pilgrimage. She also served on the board of the Old Depot Museum. She was an active member and officer of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, an organization devoted to historic preservation. Another of her longtime affiliations was with the Selma Ossian Club, for which she researched, wrote and delivered a paper yearly.
She was proud of her hometown and its prominent role in Alabama’s history. The racial tension of the 1960s that ruined the town’s reputation, making its name synonymous with intolerance and racism, was heartbreaking; nevertheless, she continued to work to bridge the chasm between the races and to re-build mutual trust and respect. She never lost her interest in politics and social justice, proudly remaining a loyal Democrat throughout her long life.
All who knew her recall her active mind, quick wit and wide-ranging interests from Braves baseball to international travel. She was blessed with friends in all parts of the country, but especially in Selma, where she played bridge weekly with the same group for over fifty years. Family and friends were included in her wide circle of correspondence. Until recent years she wrote weekly letters to all her children.
Mrs. Joyce was predeceased by her parents, Congressman Samuel Francis and Sarah Ellen Greene Hobbs; her husband of almost 63 years, John Howard Joyce; her older sister, Frances John Hobbs; her older brother, Samuel Earle Greene Hobbs; her nephews, Samuel Francis Hobbs, II and Dexter Cummings Hobbs; her son-in-law, James Char-les Peickert; and her sisters-in-law, Emily Nicolson Hobbs and Elizabeth Joyce Redwine.
She is survived by her five children: Marjory Elizabeth Joyce (Richard) Cromer of Greensboro, NC; Sarah Ellen Joyce (William) Sherling of Auburn, AL; Harriet Hampton Joyce of Portland, OR; John Howard (Jennifer Johnson) Joyce, Jr. of the Woodlands, TX; and Robert Knox Greene (Elizabeth Weather-man) Joyce of Auburn, AL.
Her eight beloved grandchildren are Elizabeth Joyce Cromer McCloy, Mary Dannelly Cromer Perdion, Carolyn Campbell Cromer Kilbride, Miller Hobbs Sherling, Dorothy Norman Sherling, Alexander Charles Joyce Peickert, Evelyn Landrum Joyce Johnson, and James Tracy Joyce.
Her great grandchildren are: Charles Taylor McCloy, Jr., Campbell Cromer McCloy, John Richard Perdion, Jason Samuel Perdion, Mabry Parker Herring, and Teagan Shane Johnson. Also surviving are her brother, Judge Truman McGill (Joyce) Hobbs and his children, Emilie Cummings Hobbs Reid, Frances John Hobbs Rose, and Judge Truman McGill Hobbs, Jr. The surviving children of her older brother are Ralph Nicolson Hobbs and Ellen Earle Hobbs Wilkes. She is also survived by her brother-in-law, Frederick Lathrop Joyce.
A memorial service will be announced later. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a memorial gift to the First Presbyterian Church, the Old Depot Museum, the Selma Public Library, or the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.