03 Jan Senior in Action – Joycelyn Shank
Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
Former County of LA Public Library Administrator is having the time of her life as a retiree; meeting fascinating people who are active seniors, and volunteering for Soroptimist International of Norwalk and other women’s groups.
Senior in Action – Joycelyn Shank
by Marilee Marrero Stefenhagan
Joycelyn, better known as Joy, submitted a letter to Not Born Yesterday that read: “I am 86 years old, born in August 1932 at French Camp, California. I was like a house-bound person, but today I belong to the Happy Singers. We sing at rest homes several days per week. I sing AND dance at these performances. I feel this is helping the rest home patients and it keeps me active and young.”
Joy’s involvement with Happy Singers came about when her friend Linda at the Mormon church heard her singing the hymns, and invited her to join a singing group. After three months performing with Happy Singers, Joy sang her first solo in December 2018; a Spanish language version of Silent Night. Another singer sang Silent Night in German. Joy’s version was a crowd pleaser.
Every month, Happy Singers’performance follows a theme. Joy had fun with the Country Western theme, wearing a western shirt and boots. When Nancy Sinatra’s song started, “These boots are made for walking,” Joy moved onto the dance floor to entertain with some fancy footwork. She loves finding shirts and sweaters that feature her name: JOY. To engage their audience, the Happy Singers often use hand movements which the listeners can mimic.
In her youth, Joy was a professional singer who accompanied herself on guitar. She performed at dinner shows and sang in bars, leading a colorful life. She won a talent contest singing Patsy Cline’s song, “Crazy.” Joy is grateful now to use her vocal chords to bring pleasure to others as a volunteer performer with Happy Singers.
Joy experienced a difficult adolescence and dropped out of school in the ninth grade. She finally went to college at age 50, and earned two Master’s Degrees at Forest Institute in Hawaii in Psychology and Sociology. As a prison Psychiatric Social Worker, Joy taught guards how to detect and prevent suicide among the inmates, and Joy provided annual anger and stress management classes for the guards. She prayed daily that the Lord would keep her safe. The guards teased her when she arrived each day by singing, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog” because of the lyrics that followed; “Joy to the World.”
Joy met her current husband Robert “Bob” Shank when she was working a second job as a dance hostess. She was divorced with four kids, so had to support herself and her family. Her mother moved in to babysit Joy’s children. At Dreamland Dancehall, Bob invited Joy to dance then asked her out. He took her to the Palladium for a busman’s holiday – dancing! They still dance together after 62 years of marriage, and also enjoy a good game of poker. Together they had six more children. Now their family has expanded to twelve grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren, and four great-great grandchildren. In the 1980s, they moved from Oahu to California to be closer to their growing family.
Joy took a class at Lancaster Library about memoir writing, and is hoping to write a book about her life. Joy also set a goal of interviewing veterans and helping them write their biographies. Thank you, Joy, for sharing a piece of your life story with NBY! readers.