One “tough old broad,” Joyce Elaine Holstrom Gorrell passed away May 21 of cancer in her home at Sunrise of Holladay. She was 92. A fighter through and through, Joyce survived five bouts with the insidious disease – colon, skin and three separate breast cancers – before a seed from the last breast cancer slowly infiltrated her body. That sneaky bastard. Along the way, she endured 17 up-the-nose Covid tests and escaped infection with help from the wonderful Sunrise staff. She also overcame a broken back from a fall, wet macular degeneration that required shots in her one good eye, and withstood the loneliness of the pandemic and too many other indignities of old age.
Joyce was born Oct. 27, 1928 in Grinnell, Iowa to Harry and Louella (Nelle) Walker Holstrom. Her dad was a drinker and neglected his family, so her mother divorced him when Joyce was young and living in Davenport, Iowa. Nelle supported them on the small salary of a doctor’s nurse. Joyce moved with Nelle and her Grandma Sadie Walker to Denver in 1940, following relatives who had gone to Colorado for tuberculosis treatment. Joyce graduated in 1946 from St. Joseph’s High School, where the football players selected her as Homecoming Queen her senior year. While there, she lost the sight in her right eye in a fluke accident – she was hit by a foul ball from a baseball field while walking home for lunch.
After high school, Joyce worked as a secretary in a Denver law office before meeting Bill Gorrell at a CYO dance. Despite the fact he asked her friend to dance first (she never let him forget it), Joyce married Bill on June 24, 1950 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Denver. She gave birth to Mike in 1954 and Debbie two years later. Bill’s job with General Motors moved the family to Cheyenne, Wyo. and then to Salt Lake in 1958.
Being the only non-Mormons in the neighborhood left Joyce often feeling isolated with two little kids while Bill was away from home Monday through Friday most weeks for work. But then she met Rosemary Holland at St. Vincent’s de Paul Catholic Church, which led to the development of lifelong friendships with various bridge groups and a half dozen couples who socialized frequently, including a weekend each year at Bear Lake.
When Debbie and Mike reached high school, Joyce returned to work. She was initially a secretary at the Murray Elevator fish-food plant (the smell drove her out) before moving to the University of Utah, where she spent a quarter century as the administrative assistant in the Department of Educational Administration, doubling as a trusted counselor and mom to grad students and professors alike.
An ardent Democrat who despised Trump beyond measure, Joyce consistently stood up for underdogs. She once argued vehemently with the general manager of the Cottonwood Mall, defending the right of Hari Krishnas to operate there if the mall allowed church groups to sing religious Christmas carols. Mortified then, her kids came to respect her adamant stances in support of what’s right.
That approach also made Joyce a trustworthy scorekeeper for baseball games played by her son and grandsons. She gave no easy hits and called an error an error, recording games with multi-colored pencils that made it easy for coaches to decipher. She enjoyed playing golf (not as well as she remembered), watching television programs from Masterpiece Theater to M*A*S*H and The Waltons, traveling to Europe with Bill, playing the piano, hitting garage sales and betting in college football and March Madness contests, twice winning big NCAA pools.
Joyce also enjoyed eating out and made fast friends with the staffs at her favorite restaurants, including Sharon’s, Hopper’s, Dee’s on 700 East and Karoo. Joyce truly loved her pets, dogs Teddy and Mandy, then a series of cats – Kitty, Sally, Sparky, Sadie and Jake. But nothing compared to the devotion she felt for her grandchildren Patrick and Ian Gorrell-Brown, and for Randall and Carl Edwards and the great-grandchildren they gave her — Amelia, Henry and Milo.
Joyce is survived by her son, Mike (Kathleen Brown) and their two sons; Debbie (Roger Edwards) and their offspring; and sister-in-law Eileen Silverman Peckham (Herb). She was preceded in death by her husband, Bill, in 2014. The family would like to extend heartfelt thanks to Joyce’s many loving caregivers and friends at Sunrise, most of all Senovia. You guys are great.
Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 at 11:00 AM at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 1375 E. Spring Lane. A private celebration of life will be held the previous evening for people who knew Joyce.