Joyce Sobel finally retired on Tuesday afternoon Jan. 24. Her family is deeply saddened and misses her already. She still had much to give and will be greatly missed by all that knew her. She never liked going off island and kept her wish until the end.
Joyce was born on May 19, 1943 in Quincy, Massachusetts to Robert and Dorothea Leavens. She attended N. Quincy High School and went on to graduate from Jackson College of Tufts University in 1964. After graduation, Joyce served in the Peace Corp in Kenya in 1965 and 1966 where she was a secondary school teacher. She married Lance Sobel and gave birth to their son Duncan, while stationed in Kenya. She received a master’s degree in early childhood education from Erikson Institute of Loyola University of Chicago in 1970. She then served as the director of the Evanston (IL) Day Nursery. Joyce and her family moved to Friday Harbor in 1975. She was not new to island life, having spent her childhood at a family cottage on Bakers Island, Massachusetts.
On San Juan, she found her home for the rest of her life. Over the next 43 years, Joyce dedicated her life to the community of her new island. As a mentor, activist, spokesperson and advocate for those without a voice. She started many programs for those who had a need and spent countless hours supporting children and families of the Island. Although she wished to remain quietly behind the scenes, she was never afraid to be heard when she deemed it necessary. She was a woman of strong action and perseverance. Joyce’s passion was giving to her community, and she took great pride in knowing she had served it well. Joyce is survived by and greatly missed by her son Duncan, his wife Mary and the apples of her eye, her two grandchildren Veronica and Logan of Los Angeles, California. She is also survived by and greatly missed by her brother Robert and his partner Betsy of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Ultimately, Joyce is survived by us all.
Although we are currently filled with sadness and grief, her memory will live on and she will continue to inspire us. Her greatest gift is that we will feel her presence for years to come, in the multitude of ways she touched so many lives big and small. A memorial celebration of Joyce’s life will be held on the island, at a later date this spring/summer.
If you would like to celebrate Joyce and the tremendous work she accomplished, please consider making a gift to the San Juan Island Community Foundation and request that it go to the “SJI Family Resource Center Changing Lives” fund. All proceeds will be used for the San Juan Island Family Resource Center’s current building expansion initiative, and to support the center’s free programs and services.