Joyce Whitney passed away on Tuesday November 15, 2016 in Berkeley, California from complications of heart disease and dementia. She was 88. Born on September 30, 1928 in Salt Lake City, Utah to Joshua Rudolfus (Ralph) Whitney and May (née Matson) Whitney, she is survived by her brother, Richard R. Whitney, of Plain, Washington and by cousins and numerous nieces and nephews and their children.
Joyce grew up in Salt Lake City and earned a BA in Education from the University of Utah in 1952. She was proud of her pioneer heritage and her Salt Lake City roots. In her youth she was very athletic: she skied, swam, hiked, and played tennis and softball. Her two brothers never forgot the day she broke her arm while playing football with the boys. She was a sports fan all her life. Early employment included summer jobs at Grand Canyon National Park, which she grew to love. After college Joyce worked as a Kelly Girl in New York, where she learned to appreciate live opera and big city life. As a teacher at South High School in Salt Lake City, she routinely took her students on sports outings, such as trips to Alta, her favorite ski area. She enjoyed teaching history, and often recalled her pleasure in explaining the principles of the U.S. Constitution to her students. Joyce was staunchly committed to progressive social policies throughout her life.
By the early 1960s Joyce had settled permanently in the Bay Area, California, with the exception of one year in Seattle to earn her MA in Social Work from the University of Washington. She had a long career as a social worker with Contra Costa County Social Services (CCCSS). Her specialty was finding homes for disadvantaged, abused, and neglected children. She had a talent for communicating and emotionally connecting with even the most troubled young people, and often called upon her considerable personal courage in fighting for others’ well-being. For her steadfast commitment that went beyond the call of duty Joyce was presented with several awards, including the Warrington Stokes Award (1990) for outstanding contributions in the field of child abuse prevention.
Joyce was a devoted fan of San Francisco: she attended sports events, the symphony, and the opera as often as she could and liked to treat her visitors, friends, and clients to baseball games, musical productions, and art exhibits in the City. She traveled several times to France, Italy, and the UK and became an avid anglophile who dreamed of living in England some day. As an enthusiastic animal lover, Joyce’s goodwill knew few bounds. She rescued feral cats at work and welcomed birds, opossums, raccoons, and skunks to her backyard “wildlife habitat.” She adopted one dog when its owner gave up on it, and paid the veterinary bills to save the life of another because its family couldn’t afford to do so. Her cats were her solace and obsession throughout her long life.
During retirement Joyce volunteered for CCCSS, enrolled in art history classes, and valiantly tried to improve her computer skills. As her physical condition declined, she still loved to watch sports on TV or have a picnic at Tilden Park in Berkeley, and it comforted her to sit by the marina and gaze out over San Francisco Bay to the beautiful city she loved.
Joyce was intensely attached to her family and a special group of friends, coworkers, clients, and neighbors, who all loved her in return. Many family members and friends benefited from her kindness, generosity of spirit, and encouragement. Her nieces and nephews remember her from their younger days as the stubbornly independent, somewhat eccentric aunt who supported the teenage underdog; inspired exploration of the wider world; introduced them to serious literature, Broadway musicals, Classical music, opera, or soul music; gave them “forbidden” rock albums; let them shift the gears of her old Hillman Minx; or joined them in a crazy day at old Playland at the Beach in San Francisco. As grownups, they knew her as someone who would always support (and sometimes challenge) them with her humor, friendly intelligence, and love.
Memorial gatherings will take place in both the Bay Area and Salt Lake City, with dates to be announced online, care of Sunset View Mortuary in El Cerrito, California.