Alyson Tufts, Lucy and Joyce Tufts
A textbook definition of personality might read something like this. It’s a complex trait that is influenced by multiple genetic and environmental factors. So I believe it’s no accident that people who occupy a special heartfelt place in one’s life share many of those traits in common. That is how I would describe my relationship with Joyce Tufts.
Number one on the list would be our shared experience of moving to San Francisco as refugees from the midwest. Close behind would be our German ancestry and our proximity in age. Last but not least would be the fact that we each lived through the difficult days of the AIDS pandemic in San Francisco. We unfortunately shared the experience of losing innumerable talented friends in the prime of their lives, but fortunately we had each other.
I grew up in a family with four older sisters and and one younger sister. So it was only natural that Joyce occupied a place in my heart as an older sister with the maternal qualities an older sister would exhibit for a younger brother. But it’s also very important that we shared laughter. We were able to go to that place where laughter especially heals in the midst of extreme struggle. Sometimes that required a bit of irreverence. After surviving brain surgery, people would naturally ask Joyce how she was doing. She would respond with: "Much better after my lobotomy! By the way, do I know you?” Joyce and I referred to ourselves as Lucy and Ethel! And I have plenty of shared experiences to look back upon that would bear that characterization out.
There is so much more I could say, but I’ll wrap this up with one last thought. Knowing Joyce Tufts was a privilege, because she gave me the first hand experience of knowing unconditional love, unlimited generosity and unparalleled compassion. I sleep better at night knowing she’s up there as an angel fighting for the rights of everyone who needs health care. And I’m sure she has a full heavenly symphony playing the appropriate background music!
Joyce’s published obituary:
Joyce Tufts (née Schnelker)
Passed away unexpectedly on December 26, 2016 at the age of 74. Devoted wife of 42 years of Robert Tufts, beloved mother of Alyson Tufts, loving aunt and great-aunt to R.J. Schnelker (Megan) and his sons Winston and Elliot, and treasured by many other family members.
Joyce was a graduate of Galion High School (Galion, OH), St. John's Hospital School of Nursing in Cleveland, OH with an RN, Ohio State University, BS and the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, MPH; and was an exemplary employee and leader of San Francisco Home Health Services (SFHHS) prior to her retirement. At SFHHS, Joyce served as a home care nurse, district administrator, and Director of Nursing; and managed the federal project that proved that, by adding homemaker and day care services to Medicare, federal and state governments saved money with reduced emergency room visits, hospitalizations, etc., while improving the quality of life for those receiving the additional services.
She was actively involved in the San Francisco Symphony, Sunday Musicale, Lick-Wilmerding High School, and On Lok; and was frequently seen with her beloved dog Lucy. She will be remembered for her keen mind, tenacity, wit, kindness, elegance, and generosity. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to SF Symphony, On Lok / 30th Street Senior Center, or Save the Bay. A celebration of her life will be held on Thursday, February 23rd.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 22, 2017.