Joyce Anne (Curtis) Umfress was born in Helena, Arkansas, to Margaret Sue Doerr Curtis and William Earl Curtis on August 11, 1940. Joyce was the first child with 4 younger brothers. She graduated at 16 from T.A. Futrall High School in Marianna, where she played the saxophone and was a majorette. She attended business school in Memphis, TN, as a condition for her parents’ approval to marry Bobby Umfress at 17 and then move to Bakersfield. She had three children by the time she was 23. Joyce entered the workforce when her children were all in school, retiring from Cawelo Water District after 30 years in 2016.
Mom was the one you called if you couldn’t think of the right word to use in a letter or if your creative juices just weren’t flowing. The grandchildren loved going to Granna’s house, whether it was to stuff their pockets with the wintergreen mints that she always kept in a drawer, or to do a craft or paint or just talk. She loved finding the notes that the kids would leave laying around for her to find later. She could always be counted on to whip up a Halloween costume or hem a pair of pants or replace a zipper. She loved having long, long telephone conversations while one of the kids or grandchildren were driving home from work. And, if she found someone willing, there was nothing she liked more than having long philosophical or political discussions. Although she wasn’t formerly educated beyond high school, you would never know it by talking to her. She was well read and extremely intelligent.
Joyce had many friends, some lifelong who, despite being spread from North Carolina to Ojai and many towns in between, never lost their connection. Joyce was a long-standing member and supporter of the Bakersfield Art Association, serving on their board in several roles including President.
She was an active member of her sorority, Delta Theta Tau, Gamma Xi chapter. Joining in 1991, she served as an officer in all positions, multiple times over the years and was very close to her sorority sisters.
She had many other friends as well, her Ditzy Diner group, her two book clubs, and her neighbors. Joyce had a full and fulfilling social life and treasured all her “people.” She will be missed by many and loved always.
Joyce passed almost exactly 1 year after her cancer diagnoses. She tolerated the treatment well, handling her diagnosis and treatment with dignity and grace. She was still driving herself to appointments, meetings, and social gatherings with friends, up until just 6 weeks before her death. We are thankful that her decline was rapid and that she had very little discomfort.
Joyce is preceded in death by her parents, her brothers Phillip Guy Curtis, Thomas Daniel Curtis, John Auby Curtis, and her ex-husband Bobby Umfress. She is survived by her children Teresa Ford (Vince), Catherine Umfress Thorpe (Todd), Douglas Umfress (Tracy), grandchildren Brittney McGlasson (Chris), Trevor Ford (Molly), Jason Umfress (Christy), Erick Umfress (Erin) and Zachary Umfress (Laura) and great-grandchildren Tristin, Jaxon, and Sloan McGlasson, Jayden and Benjamin Umfress, Logan Umfress, Analise and Claire Umfress, and brother William Earl Curtis (Martie), sisters in law Sue Curtis and Peggy Curtis and numerous nieces and nephews.
Joyce will be laid to rest in Haynes, Arkansas, in the family cemetery. She will be interred next to her parents, brothers, grandparents, and other family members that passed before her.
The family would like to extend a special thank you to Jasmine and Jerry, Fidela and Lyra from Arcadia Health Care for the love, warmth, and care that they provided to our mother for the last three weeks of her life. Even though it was a short amount of time that Joyce was there, the impact that they made on her life and on our lives cannot be overstated. To the other residents of Arcadia, thank you for greeting us every day with a smile and a hello, and for being so sweet to our mom.