On any given morning, Joyce Walker is guaranteed to be sipping black coffee in the lounge area at the Seniors’ Village in Williams Lake.
Joyce, who will be 89 on May 3, has lived there for a year and a half.
When she first arrived not many people were sitting in the lounge.
“I started coming here and encouraged people to come and join me. I waved them on over,” she says with a huge grin.
Before moving into Seniors Village, Walker lived in McLeese Lake.
Joyce was born in Saskatoon. She moved to White Rock with her parents, Violet and Cyril Ewson, and brother Ronald in 1930.
“Mom wanted to see the ocean, was fed up with the dust and cold winters,” Joyce recalled. “Dad was a war vet on a pension. He was a great gardener and loved to grow vegetables and flowers.”
By the time she finished high school, the Second World War was on, so Joyce moved into Vancouver to work at Boeing.
“I was a “gopher” in the tool shop,” she said. “I talked my mom into coming to work there. She got a job as a riveter’s assistant.”
The two rented a one-bedroom apartment on 12th Avenue and “thumbed” home to White Rock on their two days off.
“We worked at Boeing until it closed down.”
After Boeing her mom started cooking in cafes in White Rock so Joyce decided she’d try waitressing.
She married and had two sons, Tom and John, however, the marriage didn’t last.
While she was working at Super Valu, one of her friend’s husbands, who was working in Kitimat, mentioned Joyce’s situation to a co-worker, Austin Kenneth (Ken) Walker.
“He called me up from Kitimat to see how I was,” she recalled. “We talked for three quarters of an hour and when I got off the phone I said to my parents that if he comes down to see me I’m going to marry him.”
In less than a month, Ken phoned and said he was in town. He wanted to meet Joyce and her family.
They were going to a Christmas party at the boys’ school so she invited Ken to join them.
“We clicked right away. He proposed in December.”
They were married in April 1960 at the New Westminster courthouse.
“It was heaven from then on. He was very good,” Joyce said.
Ken adopted the boys and the family bought a new home in Port Coquitlam with a meadow, a large vegetable garden and flower beds all created by Ken.
Eventually Joyce “sweet talked” him into buying a brand new dump truck so he could work for highways.
Then in 1970 they moved to McLeese Lake because Gibraltar Mines was being developed and Ken was hired to work for the highways department to help build the road into the mine.
Within a year of settling in at McLeese Lake, and Ken doing highway contracts around McLeese Lake and the Chilcotin Highway west of Williams Lake, the Esso Station at McLeese Lake came up for sale.
Ken sold the dump truck, which gave them the payment to buy the franchise and a house trailer.
“We took over the garage and were there for three years or more,” Joyce said. “We loved it. One year we were recognized by two men from Esso for having the highest gas sales the garage had ever done.”
The relationship between the Walkers and the building owner soured, so the couple decided it wasn’t worth their efforts.
One day Ken received a phone call from Gibraltar asking if he could change a tire.
It turned out to be a joke because the guys from Gibraltar arrived at the garage driving a huge mining truck.
“I’ve got pictures somewhere of Ken standing there with this little tiny wrench next to this huge truck. The tire was bigger than he was.”
That day the workers told Ken they’d like him to come and work at the mine and Ken said the Walkers were going to sell the garage in the spring and that he’d like to work at the mine.
“He stayed at the mine until he retired,” Joyce said. “At first he drove a huge truck hauling ore from the mine and then went to work in the crusher.”
Joyce worked for years at Ed and Joan Bourdon’s Cariboo Wood Shop at McAlister, six miles north of McLeese Lake.
“At the beginning Ed asked if I could varnish cedar chests so I told him I could. I told him I would do one coat a day for three days and if he liked my work then I’d come and work for him.”
Later she worked for Ed’s son Kevin and his wife Brenda at the wood shop and the coffee shop staying there until she retired.
Joyce loved McLeese Lake.
When Ken retired the couple would travel to Yuma, Ariz. to spend five months of the year.
Ken eventually succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease and passed away 10 years ago at Deni House.
Joyce continued to go away for five months of the year, although only as far as Penticton where she rented a motel.
She didn’t know anyone there. Her kids thought she was “nuts,” but the weather was perfect — dry and very little snow in the winters.
“I’m friendly. I had no problem,” she explained.
Joyce still misses Ken and after his death found it hard to be alone, yet said she had a good life with him.
She’s generous with hugs at the Seniors’ Village and stops to talk to everyone, even small dogs.
“As a kid I had a two mile walk to school and along the way I’d stop and talk. I love people and I love to help people.”