McMillan, Joyce Fitzgerald

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Joyce Fitzgerald McMillan, retired elementary school teacher and long- time resident of Pulaski, Virginia, passed away at the age of 95 on May 14, 2023. She spent her last Mother’s Day at home in the loving company of family members.

Joyce (Martha Joyce Fitzgerald) was born on March 2, 1928, the eldest child of Cleveland Madison and Leola Ophelia Fitzgerald. She grew up in the mining community of Coalwood, West Virginia where she attended Big Creek High School and was active in the Thespian Society, marching band, and cheerleading. She graduated in 1946, less than a year after the end of World War II. After completing her freshman year at Mary Washington College, she married her high school sweetheart James Luther McMillan to start a family. They raised four sons and spent a life devoted to each other that spanned 75 years.

Joyce and Jim began their lives together on a rented farm in Browns Creek, West Virginia, eventually moving to Pulaski in 1951. While raising four rambunctious boys, Joyce resumed her education at Radford College where she graduated with honors and a degree in elementary education in 1967. She spent the next 25 years teaching fourth and fifth grade students at Northwood, Jefferson and Crizer Elementary Schools. She retired from her teaching career in 1991 to help care for an elderly family member.

Long after her retirement, Joyce would often cross paths with former students who would give her a hug and recall her as one of their “favorite” teachers. Her goodness of heart and playful nature made her a favorite with everyone who knew her. Nothing delighted her more than spending time with her young grandchildren who loved to hear her read dramatic renditions of classic children’s books. She would continue to swim with them at her beloved family retreat on the New River well into her 80’s. She was a good sport about the many practical jokes played on her over the years by her four sons and husband.

These pranks on Mom became legendary and were retold countless times to great laughter.

Joyce was an active member of the First United Methodist Church of Pulaski and continued to faithfully listen to Sunday morning sermon broadcasts even after her advanced age prevented her from attending. She believed that true happiness came from service to others. Determined to stay vital and active in her later years, she spent her days in the kitchen with her son Bill making dessert breads to give to friends and acquaintances throughout the community. Her reward was bringing a smile to their faces. When she wasn’t in the kitchen, or at her chair reading a book, she could usually be found outside working in one of her flower beds.

Joyce is preceded in death by her husband, Jim McMillan; parents, Cleve and Leola Fitzgerald; brother, David Fitzgerald; brother, Jean Fitzgerald, and grandson Jaime McMillan.

Surviving family members include four sons and daughters-in-law: Jim and Barbara McMillan of Richlands, Va.; Dick and Monnie McMillan of Pulaski, Va.; Bill and Connie McMillan of Pulaski, Va., and Pat and Linda McMillan of Arnold, Md.; sister, Catherine Sowers of Pulaski, Va.; grandchildren, Micah McMillan of Ashville, N.C., Piper McMillan of Staunton, Va., Madison Proffitt of Morgantown, W.Va., Mahala Brien of Sevierville, Tenn., Josie McMillan of Boulder, Co., Luke McMillan of Pulaski, Va., Carey Rocha of Richmond, Va., Katie Jo McMillan of Philadelphia, Pa., Ry McMillan of Arnold, Md., Marco Warner of Richlands, Va., Dr. Brent Warner of Richlands, Va.; four great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on June 24 at 11:00 AM at the First United Methodist Church in Pulaski, Va. The service will be followed by a reception at the church.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to First United Methodist Church, Pulaski, Va. in memory of Joyce McMillan.