The announcement that Joyce Huskey — a long-time resident of St. Thomas — passed away Wednesday in Florida, was met with much sadness in the community. She had just celebrated her 69th birthday last month.
Huskey arrived on St. Thomas in 1968 with then husband, Ken Huskey, both Eastern Airlines employees. Joyce was a flight attendant and Ken was Eastern’s St. Thomas station manager. After about three years, the two opened Deliver It Freight Forwarding. It was just one of Huskey’s careers.
Huskey joined the St. Thomas community like it was tailor-made for her. She had a knack for bending things her way. Her career embraced everything from bakery owner to bookkeeper to becoming, on occasion, a large, white dog.
For years, she was an active member of the Humane Society of St. Thomas and the Lucky Paws Foundation. Delia Holodenschi, Lucky Paws director, described Huskey as "always up, willing and cheerful.”
Expressing his sadness at the news of Huskey passing, Society President Joe Aubain spoke Friday afternoon of her work at the Humane Society.
"She was amazing,” Aubain said. "She was passionate about the animals. Not only was she employed as our graphic designer, but when it came to animals, that was her passion. In her volunteer efforts, she was a compassionate person. Her graphic design work was beautiful, as well. She was remarkable when it came to dedication. She may have seemed to have a rough exterior, but on the inside she wasn’t rough at all.”
Perhaps in her dealings with animals, Huskey is best known as "Mama,” the oversized white dog she constructed who symbolized “Mama’s,” the candy shop she opened in Havensight, which she ran for several years. She would don her "Mama” suit for most any charitable occasion, cheerfully lending her canine support.
It was at the Havensight shop that Huskey began her lasting friendship with Morris Paiewonsky. She spoke of meeting Paiewonsky while they were celebrating his 100th birthday at the Delly Deck in 2011.
Huskey said Paiewonsky came in to "Mama’s” one morning and asked her to breakfast.
"It was Halloween and I had on a clown suit," she said. "I asked if I could wear that."
He came back with his answer a little later wearing red devil horns, and we went to breakfast. “Everyone loved the horns, at his age!” she said.
Huskey’s 25-year friendship with Paiewonsky continued over the phone after her move to Florida. She was Paiewonsky’s constant pal and designated driver after he quit driving, despite his protests, at age 90.
Huskey’s close friend Joyce Doumeng spoke with affection this week of their many years of friendship.
"Joyce always wore a smile and remained upbeat," Doumeng said. "With a pioneer can-do spirit she created Mama’s Candy Store in the 1980s, which has left many sweet memories. She was the first woman who was given a substantial bank loan from a local bank to buy Bachman’s Bakery, which she successfully operated for many years.”
Doumeng remarked on Huskey’s "uniform." "Being a minimalist," she said, "Joyce always wore white T-shirt, white shorts and white socks and sneakers.”
Doumeng concluded, "In the context of a life well lived, Joyce was an example that one can overcome any obstacle, and that choices have consequences."
Dooming said that due to health issues, Huskey moved to The Villages in Florida four years ago where she thrived.
As far as Huskey’s uniform, the occasion was unimportant, sartorially speaking. In fact, when the Source took her out for a farewell dinner at one of the island’s fancier restaurants, she appeared in a white T-shirt, shorts and socks. She was perfectly at home, as was everyone else.
Huskey has worked for the Source for the last 10 or so years as advertising coordinator, continuing after her move to Florida.
Source Publisher Shaun Pennington spoke about Huskey on Friday:
"Joyce has been an integral part of the Source for more than half its life. Without her, we would have had a much harder time making it through the earlier challenges. Her talent, creativity, and extraordinary work ethic were only part of what made her so important to our organization. Her wry humor and unique view along with her commitment are what, in part, made her important to me. I am deeply saddened, but also deeply grateful for all that Joyce gave day in and day out for the more than 10 years that we worked so very closely together. She provided a solidity that few could have carried out as we moved into a new field of endeavor. What she has left behind will carry us through for many more decades. That will be her legacy.”
Huskey’s younger brother, Charlie Martin, to whom she was very close, shared some of his memories on Friday.
"She always looked out for me when I was growing up,” he said, "and I’ve always been here for her.”
Martin spends about half the year in Florida. He also lived on St. Thomas to be closer to her.
"She loved living in The Villages, especially for the health care afforded here,” Martin said. "She made no secret of the fact of her earlier smoking. She said she was ‘killed from cigarettes.’”
Martin said their brother Ken and Joyce’s daughter Joni Jones will be joining him in Florida. Later the family and close friends will have a private ceremony at Mandahl Bay, per Huskey’s instructions.