On August 29th, several weeks ago, my wife and I attended a memorial service for long-time friend Joyce Simchick who had passed away at the age of 89 years following a lifetime of service for her family and the tri-county area. The service included a eulogy by her pastor, the Rev. Christopher McCloskey of our church, Brockway Presbyterian, followed by comments by her children Bill Champlin of DuBois and Linda Champlin Rodriguez of Aiken, South Carolina, and her sister Joanne Langdon from Dover, New Hampshire.
When no one else from this community or our church answered the call to speak, I abandoned my personal preference to stay in my seat and found myself at the speakers stand. I had attended the church with my mother for many years as I rose through the local schools but, I lost my religion after graduation as a result of taking on an extensive Sunday newspaper route for the Pittsburgh Press and Sun Telegraph that extended all the way from Brockport to Falls Creek to Allens Mills and around to Sugar Hill. After the first two years, I moved to State College and thoughts of church never entered my mind.
After I returned to teach in Brockway, I began to realize what I’d been missing over those college years, and returned to the church of my youth ... and there I met this lady, known in those days as “Joyce Champlin.” She had grown up as an upper-New York farm-girl near Rochester. She attended the near-by Alfred University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree and became a Registered Nurse. She moved to Brockway, joined our church and entered her two kids in the Sunday School.
Joyce had played in her high school’s band, which had begun a life-long love for music. She joined the church choir and even volunteered to direct the choir whenever needed. When Evelyn and I were married in 1969 and she transferred from the Beechwoods Church, she also joined our choir and the two vocalists became good friends and that duo continued as part of the choir for many years right into today’s generation’s Village Voices of Brockway as long as their health conditions allowed them to continue.
Over the years, Joyce pursued her nursing career doing some private nursing around the Brockway-DuBois area and substituted in the office of the original Dr. Devlin as needed. When the Brockway Area Ambulance Service was considered in 1973, Joyce was among the first to volunteer. She enrolled in the Advanced First Aid and CPR classes taught by Joe Luther and Mary Kay Marshall, plant nurse at Brockway Glass, and was one of the enrollees in the first EMT classes that led to the first official run of the ambulance service. Along with the late Tim Dodd, Joyce shared the honor of delivering the first (and maybe the only) “Ambulance Baby” along Route 219 near the Honda Shop. Even after Joyce eventually retired from riding the ambulance, she continued with management and served as board secretary for many more years.
Not to be left behind, my wife also enrolled in an early round of EMT training and went on to work as a volunteer for a number of years, primarily doing transports that could be scheduled ahead and didn’t interfere with her farm job of milking cows. Eventually our family grew to three young couples with two babies in each family with each couple working on full-time jobs in this area. Evelyn left the ambulance service to provide day care for the three little girls and three little boys. Even today, when they get together there is a lot of talk about those fun times shared at our house until they all eventually went their own separate ways, now with their own six children among them.
Joyce found her way into regional health-related positions such as the North Central Regional Planning and Development Commission, first as a nutrition education coordinator at senior centers throughout a five-county area and eventually retired in 1995 from the WIC Program for “Women, Infants, and Children”. Her work frequently took her into Elk County where she met Elk County native John Simchick. The two found they shared the same interests and were compatible in many ways and, after several years as a divorced, single mom, Joyce and John were married in 1983 and they settled into home life in Brockway where she enjoyed retirement for the next 26 years. John took courses for retraining from his job in the metal industries plant that shut down and now maintains a steady PC repair business.
During their 36 years of marriage, Joyce exhibited her abundant enthusiasm for life in many ways and John was always there to lend his support. Along with some local friends, they joined in Western-style square dance lessons taught by the late Sheriff Ed Dunkle and then followed dance events all around this end of the state enjoying every minute of it. Evelyn and I knew how that went because we also took those lessons from Ed Dunkle when we were in the courting frame of mind. We received our diploma and then never went back because we began to build our house. After that, we just stayed with the old-time country-style of square dance that didn’t require as much concentration and memory to follow the directions in the calls.
Around the “Millennium” turn of the century, I had become much more involved with the program of the Jefferson County Fair and I enlisted the help of Joyce Simchick and radio announcer Gary Stormer along with several other good planners. We had a great time with planning sessions around the dining room table at our house. Not only did Joyce and Gary make plans for the entertainment based on their own experience, but they also contacted potential sponsors for the fair. With the positive attitudes they both displayed, it was next to impossible to tell either of them “no” especially for track events. Joyce also went an extra mile for each sponsor. She would write up a commercial and would take it straight to the announcer’s stand, pull up a chair, and sit right there until the announcer actually read her words and made the sponsorship worth the donation.
One summer she prepared a whole list of really nice raffle items and printed posters that could be hung around the fairgrounds for advertising. She fastened one on the fair gazebo and sat back to collect raffle money. It came in faster than usual until she discovered that people thought mistakenly that they were taking chances on the gazebo. She quickly changed those posters. Another time, Joyce brought in a beautiful rocking chair and sat with it among the general exhibits to collect raffle chances. She couldn’t resist the temptation to slip out to visit with people and word leaked out that “Joyce is off her rocker again!”
During fair week, Joyce was at risk at the end of the day. With a day’s worth of excitement behind her, she sometimes drove home with a heavy foot and found it difficult to back off coming down Route 28 on the hill near Highland View where local police often sat for a speed check. These brought back a few of my memories that I shared with all family and friends at Joyce’s memorial service. They recalled some of the things that led to the title of “She is a true Good Samaritan” on the plaque that was presented to her when she was named as “Brockway’s Woman of the Year” in 2014, a title she certainly deserved ... and then some.