Friends and Relatives Remember Joyce Sarr
Sabbath afternoon, April 18, 2015, the Laurelbrook Seventh-day Adventist Church hosted a memorial service for retired staff member Joyce Sarr, who passed away March 28 at the age of 98. She is survived by two children – Charles Albert Sarr and Claryce Joy Sarr Caviness and by two grandchildren Larisa Elise Caviness Westmoreland and Erik Stefan Caviness. About 60 people attended the afternoon service.
Joyce was born in 1917 in rural Wisconsin (second of two girls), grew up on a Wisconsin farm near the Minnesota border, and met and married her husband Clarence in 1942 at Emmanuel Missionary College. During her working years, she filled positions as an elementary school teacher, fast food worker, and radio personality for the church-run AM radio station VOAR in Newfoundland, Canada. She and her husband Clarence became Laurelbrook staff members; the couple finished out their working years there. Joyce continued to work at the school office until she retired in 2007 at age 90. During her final year, she lived with her children Charles or Claryce as schedules dictated.
Before the service, Barbara Ellis, former Laurelbrook staff member and friend of Joyce Sarr, remarked on the wonderful way that Joyce had with quilts. One of the quilts – the one covering the church organ – was given up by Joyce as a failure. She gave it to Barbara Ellis to cover Barbara’s blueberries. Barbara Ellis and another lady added a nice border and a good backing – and the quilt won People’s Choice award from a quilting show. Joyce didn’t know her quilt had been entered.
Laura Westmoreland played her bassoon for a time before the program began. Wanda Sarr, Joyce’s daughter-in-law, welcomed everyone and reminded everyone that there would be opportunities to share memories throughout the program. She then had prayer. Michael Westmoreland (married to one of Joyce’s grandchildren) then sang “Balm in Gilead”.
Claryce Caviness then read a scripture reading that dealt with “a great cloud of witnesses”. She felt her mother was a great example for her.
Charles Sarr then talked about his mother’s life. She spent a short time living in a lumber camp where her father was keeping books. Each year the family tried new varieties of food, selected from a seed catalog. The family was one of the first to get electricity in her area, the first place to get lights was the barn. She was noted for swift walking as she walked to school. Throughout her life, a day was not lost if she learned something new. This included Bible truths as Adventists understand them.
The family sold a cow so Joyce could go to Berrien Springs, Michigan. She met Clarence, got married during a teaching conference, and filled various teaching positions. Her husband Clarence became a researched chemist. During this time, she managed an early fast-food restaurant. Then she adopted Charles, a baby from Oregon.
Charles was allergic to many common foods so Joyce spent nights holding him. Then she found she was pregnant with her first child. Joyce read aloud before and after the children’s births, bequeathing both a love of read.
The children and the family in general had allergy troubles so Clarence accepted a teaching position at Union Springs Academy in New York. Then the family took up missionary service in Newfoundland, Canada. In 1970 the family relocated to North Carolina to Fletcher Academy where Joyce worked in billing for a medical clinic. The family spent a year at Pine Forest Academy in Mississippi. Then the family came to Laurelbrook. Barbara Ellis became one of her very best friends.
Joyce joined Clarence in moving students and goods for Laurelbrook. Clarence died in 2000. Wanda Sarr, then Laurelbrook Academy principal, got her to work in the academy office. She had various broken bones.
She felt that music and spring were two favorites of hers. She looked forward to heaven where these two things would be present more intensely. Another person felt that the Sarr family had a lot of love. She wished the Lord to use her to channel His love through her.
The audience shared some of their stories about Joyce Sarr. One time she went to a fair, won a ham, and left the ham behind. She had no complaints. The campus maintenance men remembered that she lived with situations (hole in the floor or a mouse hole in a water pipe) and rarely complained (she didn’t want to bother anybody). She told Beth Brandt that her father and the family came into the church in an amazing way. She loved to hug people, smiled all the time, and loved scented flowers. Ron Oxentenko noticed that she was a quiet though strong supporter of her husband Clarence. He also enjoyed the influence the family has had on Laurelbrook.
Michael Westmoreland then sang “Be Still, My Soul”, accompanied on the piano by his wife Larisa.
Ken Caviness then shared his memories of Joyce. Joyce always welcomed Ken and other people for dinner. She typed out slips of papers containing poems she had written and sent them to him. One poem celebrated the fact that in old age when she went to bed various parts and pieces of her existence took up residence in various drawers and containers. In the morning, she would read the obits; if her name was missing, she knew she could live another day.
The audience then shared some more stories about Joyce. Her granddaughter Larisa Westmoreland coordinated this session. Gladys Ferguson remembered her spending the night on the floor but not complaining even though in great pain. Larisa remembered receiving positive letters from her grandmother while a boarding student at Georgia-Cumberland Academy. Another person remembered having a fun day going on a tour in Georgia. Eleida, who lived in Joyce’s house after Joyce moved to an apartment in Wanda and Charles Sarr’s house, remembers the unique flowers planted around the house. John Ellis remembers that Joyce and his wife Barbara were known as the “partners in crime” at the nursing home while working (the reason for this is unknown).
Robert D. Zollinger shared his memories of Joyce. He felt that Joyce followed the Lamb where He went, had no guile while following the Lord, and never did anything that was a fault.
Revelation 14:3 “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed [are] the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” She was an inspiration and a good memory for those who knew her.
The next two chapters in Revelation deal with the last earthly plagues. One of these plagues opens the tombs of the dead and will cause a special resurrection. Ellen White in The Great Controversy says that those who died believing in the Third Angel’s Message and lived this message will be part of this special resurrection. God want them to hear God’s announcement of blessing on His people. God will show the Ten Commandments and pronounce a special blessing on those who keep the true Sabbath.
Then the hour and day of Jesus’ Coming will be announced, followed by the special black cloud with yet another resurrection.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 “15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
Larisa Westmoreland, Michael Westmoreland, and Erik Caviness then sang “Abide With Me” as a vocal trio without accompaniment.
The audience shared more stories about Joyce. Evelyn Wellman, another retired person on campus, loved to play Scrabble but was beaten every time.
Larisa and her brother then played two hymns her grandmother really loved – “All the Way My Savior Led Me” and “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds”. People started leaving while they played. They played “Bringing the Sheaves”. Charles Sarr mentioned the Joyce as a child disliked this hymn intensely because she pictured herself at the bottom of the haystack.