.Memories of John:
More than 40 years have passed since John and I began our teaching careers in Great Falls, Montana. He was at the High School and I at a Junior High but somehow I fell in with John and a handful of young teachers from North Dakota. 1966-1967...our first year of teaching...with dozens and dozens of other rookie teachers...our first real paychecks...learning how to deal with students, colleagues and principals...the joy and frustration of coaching...all against a background of the Vietnam war, the Selective Service, and the draft boards back home. Parts of our country were in turmoil but we were privileged enough, were lucky enough, to create a special year of memories.
Let me share some of the “good times” with John:
John was such a gifted and graceful athlete. He quickly became the most accomplished skier in our group, the one who led the rest of us struggling neophytes down the slopes of King’s Hill, Montana. We ended the ski season with a vigorous Easter trip to Sun Valley, Idaho. The sunny days we rented saddle horses and raced at full gallop, once out of sight from the stable boss.
The day John convinced us that we could “safely” walk to the middle of the railroad trestle that spanned high over the Missouri River. The Sunday afternoon pick-up basketball games. We followed closely the team sports for the three high schools in town along with college and professional teams. John especially pre-dated ESPN with his knowledge of individual teams, the players, and the standings within the various conferences.
Most everything could be a competition with John. He could induce a wager over which runner would finish fifth and which one sixth in a track event. The flying lesson, the J-T and country music, the bull-sessions! Our group of guys had some memorable discussions: “How much money would a guy need to make before he dared enter marriage?” or “Would UCLA and Lew Alcindor win the college basketball championship?” or “How long should a person’s life be? How many years, how many birthdays are needed to prevent a feeling of being cheated?” We were so young and we all saw ourselves as invincible. None of us had an inkling of the significance of one friend’s argument that “every person will receive the number of years needed to demonstrate his or her character to the rest of the world.” After the last day of school, John and I left for our homes back in North Dakota and Minnesota. At that stage in our life, we could pack all of our earthly belongings in the trunk and back seat of our vehicles. I don’t remember the make or model of his car but out in the emptiness of Eastern Montana, where a speed-limit sign read “Safe and Prudent”, we traded cars and sped mile after mile with the red needles of our speedometers leaning far to the right. I did not see John again. He became an officer in the Marines. I married, moved back to Minnesota, and was not drafted into the Army because the Government decided that our country needed science teachers. One day the Minneapolis Tribune listed John Joyce, Minot North Dakota, killed in action. I remarked to my wife, “I would bet that there was some kind of problem and they needed a volunteer to cross over some dangerous ground. John would say, Let me do it! I can make it!” There were no limits to what John would do for his team or a friend.
Allow me to honor John’s memory with a passage from Sigurd Olson’s book, Reflections from The North Country. “The real truth in what they were and did lives on, each person leaving his own evidence of his time on earth. It is like a stone thrown into a calm pool, its ripples spreading wider and wider, possibly into infinity.”
John demonstrated his great character in that school year. He influenced my life, that circle of young teachers, as well as the students in his classes. We were and remain in John’s “ripple”. John’s memory continues to live on.
By: Harold (Finn) Fenske
Forwarded, per Julie's request. A very eloquent and moving recollection of one person's relationship with John...
From: Harold Fenske
Date: March 20, 2009
Subject: Memories of John
Please forgive me if this letter seems like a bolt out of the blue.
I am a retired science teacher in northern Minnesota. Your brother John and I began our teaching careers in Great Falls Montana back in the 1966-67 school year. I knew that John gave his life in Vietnam. His memory has been with me these past 40 years. I have touched his name on the Wall in Washington DC. but always wondered about details and his family back in North Dakota. The miracle of Google led me to the http://k326marines.com/nevergorgotLtJoyce.html web site and your wonderful words. I would like to share some memories of that first year of teaching with your brother John.
LT. JOYCE WAS KILO'S 2ND PLATOON COMMANDER IN 1969
Song-"What a Wonderful World" sung by Louis Armstrong/written by Bob Thiele (as "George Douglas") and George Weiss in 1967. Produced by ABC Records.