Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido said it best.
“It’s that laugh,” Garrido said as she summed up what many people think of when they think of Linda Joyce. “We all love your laugh.”
Indeed. There are many people who love Joyce’s laugh and love Linda Joyce. After 20 years as executive director for the Kitsap County YWCA, Joyce has officially retired. And more than 200 people came out last Friday to wish her well.
The retirement celebration which lasted more than two hours saw notable folks, community leaders, employees and friends take to the stage to tell stories about Joyce and to let her know just how special she is to them.
Garrido spoke about a time when she worked for the YWCA on Bainbridge Island and helped put together the plans for the Y-ALIVE domestic violence shelter.
“Linda, you are a complete treasure,” Garrido said. “Every day each of us think about you. We love your sense of sisterhood. We love your sense of community.”
Garrido also mentioned something else that Joyce is known for.
“And any of us who have gotten a note from you, cherish it because of your beautiful handwriting,” she said.
Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent noted the work that Joyce did to get the YWCA its own building.
“We honor you for all the achievements you have had,” Lent said. “Your character, your courage and your commitment are something we will never forget.”
Lent gave Joyce the key to the city, but noted “it doesn’t open anything.”
Kitsap County Auditor Walt Washington was among the well-wishers.
“When I came to town, I met you right off,” he said. “And then, everywhere I went you were there. You were involved in everything and everyone knew you. I told myself after my campaign for office that if I had the recognition factor you did, I’d of had much more than the 60 percent vote I got.”
He said Joyce was special because of her commitment to making the community a better place.
“There isn’t a place in our community you haven’t touched,” he said. “I give you my heart.”
Longtime friend Vivi-Ann Parnell, who worked with Joyce on the board of the Kathleen Sutton Foundation, said Joyce had taught her compassion.
“You have a contagious positivity,” Parnell said. “There’s such an honesty ingrained in you. I admire your positive look on life.”
Several employees of Joyce’s also spoke. Among them was Debbie Brockman, who described Joyce’s ability to treat each employee as if they were her favorite.
“Like kids, we all fought for your attention,” Brockman said. “You would tell each of us that we were your favorite. And then you’d tell us what we were going to do for you.”
With fellow employees Jackie Brown and Cassie Israel at her side, Brockman, held back tears and said her goodbyes.
“We’ve all laughed together. And we’ve all cried together,” she said. “It’s just been a real blessing.”
Brockman also mentioned Joyce’s laugh and something else about her mannerisms.
“Linda doesn’t have what we call ‘an inside voice,’” she said. “If she’s in the building, we all know it. With her in the building, it’s a joyous place to be.”
She said without her in the building day by day, there’s a “hole in our hearts.”
“But we will keep on doing on what you’ve built and on what you’ve made.”
Joyce’s pastor Richmond Johnson, of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, closed the celebration with a prayer. But prior to that he spoke of Joyce’s character.
“You are a phenomenal woman,” he said. “And there are three additional characteristics that have made you so successful. Those are faith, hope and love. And although you are retiring from the Y, you are not retiring from this community. We know we will be seeing you because you have the best passion and that is compassion and you are gifted at that.”
Following that, Joyce thanked those who attended. She told about her early days in Kitsap County, having moved from Los Angeles.
“I went to the Kitsap Mall and saw that there were no shoe stores,” she said. “I told myself I cannot live here.”
But soon she saw the ad for the YWCA executive director and applied. And the rest is history.
“The YWCA is my home,” she said. “It’s never been a job. It’s a mission. It’s a place where I’ve chosen to love the people who have loved me back. So my last words to you are, ‘I love you.’”