On October 11, 2018, Joyce Trogdon Brantley, of Asheboro, passed away at the age of 72 after a long, courageous battle with cancer, which she fought with her trademark grace, good humor, and infectious optimism. It was not easy, and there were tough times, but through it all, she inspired her friends, family, and a small army of doctors and nurses with her positive attitude.
Joyce was born on September 18, 1946, in Asheboro into a loving family of storytellers. She grew up with three brothers who had a passion for cars and a love of music. It rubbed off on Joyce who, despite being a high-school cheerleader and pageant judge, could identify a busted starter or faulty alternator with the best of them.
She did not inherit her brothers' golden voices, but that didn’t stop her from singing along to her favorite Bob Seger song or anything from Diana Ross and the Supremes. What was missing in tone was made up for with her innocent joy and radiating smile in mid-song.
Joyce was most happy with her nose in a book. She was a voracious reader with an uncanny ability to devour entire books in a single day. Her bibliophila infected both her sons, who grew up thinking everyone spent a weekday evening or weekend afternoon on the porch lost in a good book.
On June 25, 1966, Joyce married Donald Ray “Shotgun” Brantley. They went on sixty dates in sixty straight days before he asked her to marry him. Their love was intense and rocky, and far from easy, but they both loved their two sons more than life itself. And though they separated after more than thirty years together, they never ended their marriage and it was Joyce who was at his bedside caring for him in his final days.
Joyce was adored by an extended family of friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and sister-in-laws; and two daughter-in-laws—Vanessa and Amy—who wore more “daughters” than “in-laws.” Joyce’s fondest memories were summers spent playing in the yard with her oldest brother Earl, Jr. (who preceded her in death). She was always the big sister and—at times—surrogate mother to her younger brothers, Randy and Keith. The four of them would make each other laugh until their faces hurt at family gatherings, trying to one up each other in the telling of stories old and new. Her father, Earl, adored her, and she him. Her kind, nurturing, and accepting spirit was inherited from her mother, Thelma. She cared for both of them in their final days, with a tenderness and respect that moved everyone around her.
Her two sons, Craig and Todd, were her pride and joy. She gave them a long leash, with a courage that they could only appreciate later in life when they were parents themselves. She may or may not have pulled Todd out of school early for a “doctor’s appointment” that ended in a line at a Greensboro movie theatre waiting to see The Empire Strikes Back on opening day. And her appreciation of Craig’s early love of music meant her driving him to an REO Speedwagon concert in Greensboro on a work night. (Editor’s note: “Sorry, mom.”)
It was a testament to their love and admiration for her that their greatest fear in life was disappointing her.
But Joyce’s proudest role was being a grandmother to her four grandchildren—Taylor, Atha, Nora, and Everett—who worshiped her and the love and attention she showered on them. When she learned her first granddaughter was on her way from Vietnam, Joyce asked to be referred to as “Ba’noi,” which is Vietnamese for “grandmother.” It stuck, and from that point forward all her grandchildren used that name, which they often spoken with a mix of awe and affection—they knew they had the world’s best grandma (and their parents knew she spoiled them).
It’s hard for her family and friends to imagine her gone. Her life was a testament to them all about how to live a life full of love, laughter, and acceptance: The power of a kind word, the remedy of a big heart, and the healing practice of finding the silver lining in life’s darkest moments. She may not be a phone call away anymore, but they will all carry her spirit in their hearts, forever and always.
A celebration of life will be held at a later date, because, well, she hated funerals and was adamant that any remembrance of her be done with a joyful heart, in good cheer, and through loud song.
Her family would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff at Duke Cancer Center and Hospice of Randolph County. In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation in her memory to one of those two organizations. They are a reminder that there are saints among us.
You are loved, Ba’noi, and you will be missed terribly.