“Turn that frown upside down,” “It’s big, bigger than all of us” and “Brown Hall 200, home of customer service,” are a few of the favorite sayings from a Northwest staff member who left a message of selflessness and optimism on faculty, staff and students.
Joyce Luke, 54, died from cancer Nov. 11 at Mosaic Life Care in St. Joseph, Missouri.
She was the assistant coordinator of field experience in the school of education. She began working at Northwest in 2009.
Joyce Luke was a Maryville native. She was born Aug. 4, 1964, to Richard (Dick) and Rose Mary (Wilmes) Luke. Joyce Luke spent her life in Maryville, graduating from Maryville High School and then furthering her education at Northwest graduating with a bachelor's in public relations.
Dean of the School of Education Timothy Wall worked closely with Joyce Luke. He said Joyce Luke was “sunshine” and brought meaning to all she did.
“For those of us left behind, we are happy she is no longer suffering, but we’ll miss her immensely,” Wall said. “Joyce would want us all, and that includes those who may not have known her and might be reading this, to live full lives. To love fiercely, to give humor and positivity to all we do, and to lift one another up and support each other. That’s what working with Joyce for several years taught me.”
Office Manager Cathy Barr said the moment she met Joyce Luke, they immediately clicked and felt like they were already old friends. The two had similar upbringings and would even complete each other’s sentences.
“We laughed and sang daily. Neither one of us were very good and rarely hit the note, but boy, when we did, we celebrated. ‘That was beautiful,’ she would say. Joyce was in charge of the music selection and it varied every day,” Barr said. “Some days it was Monster Ballads, other days it would be one hit wonders, but most definitely you could always count on Fridays being MC Hammer Fridays. She knew all the lyrics and if by some rare chance she didn’t, she would make it up and laughter would ensue.”
Student teacher Erin Greeley said that although her time working with Joyce Luke was short, she left an unceasing impression on her - one of determination and admiration.
“She really inspired me to want to be a better version of myself,” Greeley said. “Her caring personality and sense of humor were second to none, which made work not seem like work—it was more like another day with great and supportive friends, laughing, joking and singing together. Her smile could brighten a room, and I have no doubt it’s making heaven a little brighter too. Remember to always see the joy in life.”
Barr said Joyce Luke was fun to work alongside with her humor and quick wit. Even on the hardest and most painful days, Barr said she still lit up the room which was contagious to everyone around her.
“I know I can speak on behalf of everyone who worked with her here in Brown Hall; we are forever changed by her presence in our lives,” Barr said. “We have a saying posted in our office, ‘choose joy because happiness isn’t enough.’ It is now up to those of us who were touched by her life to carry that joy to others.”
Joyce Luke’s visitation was Nov. 14 at Bram-Danfelt Funeral Home in Maryville. Her funeral is Nov. 15 at St. Gregory’s Catholic Church at 11 a.m.
“She possessed the most mental strength of any person I’ve known,” Wall said. “She believed in the impossible, and made it happen through relentless belief. Joyce was loving, funny and kind. She touched each person lucky enough to know her, and that spark will continue forever.”
Teaching reading/language art students will be sponsoring two events in honor of Joyce Luke. One event is “A Very Beary Christmas,” which will be collecting stuffed animals to donate to Children's Mercy Cancer Wing.
The second event is “Fostering JOYce!” which will be collecting toys for kids in foster homes.
There will be separate receptacles on the second floor of Brown Hall for both events.