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Her Life

Celebrating the Life of Joy Wilson

November 26, 2020
Joy Wilson was born on November 29, 1940 in Miami, Florida. She moved with her family to Jacksonville, Florida and then moved to New York City in 1946, when she was six years old. Joy attended P.S. 89 and Harriet Beecher Stowe J.H.S. 136 in Harlem, NY. Joy was an extremely talented artist, a gifted oil painter and a cartoonist. A teacher spotted her talent and facilitated a scholarship for her to attend The Art Students League of New York. She then auditioned for and was admitted to the High School of Art & Design in Manhattan. Joy would later guide hundreds of students to this specialized high school and assist them in preparing their art portfolios for admission.

While raising her young daughters (both under 10 years old), Joy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art Education from Queens College on February 1, 1972. She was honored by Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society in Education. Her path to earning this degree was remarkable. She saw a flyer in her building management office touting “free college” through the Seek Program. She was the only person to take advantage of this blessing. Joy would take her daughters to school with her. The cafeteria workers would feed them while she was in class. She went on to earn a Master of Arts degree in Curriculum & Teaching from Columbia University five years later (on January 26, 1977). Joy then earned a Master of Science degree in Educational Administration from Pace University School of Education on January 15, 1987 with a 3.69 GPA. Joy was certified and licensed as a School Administrator, Supervisor and Assistant Principal of Elementary, Intermediate and Junior High Schools. These higher education institutions have recognized her in the “In Memoriam” sections of their alumni magazines in the fall of 2020.

Joy parlayed her love of art into a career as an Art Teacher at the New York City Department of Education for nearly 30 years. She served as Dean and/or Teacher at I.S. 201 in Harlem, NY; J.H.S. 141 in Riverdale, NY; M.S. 80 in the Bronx, NY and Wadleigh Secondary School in Harlem, NY. Joy was Comprehensive School Improvement Program Chairperson for Reading, Math & School Safety and garnered a 95% success rate. She was a Liaison & Coordinator for the School/Community Partnership for The Beautification of the Neighborhood Agency as part of the Mosholu Woodlawn Community Coalition. Joy also served as School Coordinator for the Annual Bronx Day Parade and Coordinator of the District Literacy & Art Exhibition. She received various awards and accolades including the Parents Association Award (in recognition for her service and dedication to parents and children at M.S. 80) and a Certificate of Appreciation (for her outstanding contributions to the students of Wadleigh Secondary School). Joy retired from the New York City Department of Education on July 1, 2003.

Joy was also Executive Director of the East 122nd Street Block Association where she, most notably, planned and executed “East Harlem Day” in 1979. The goals of this event were to advocate self-help and highlight various educational, cultural and community-based programs for the residents of East Harlem. “East Harlem Day” was comprised of sponsors (including Burger King) and representatives from the Community Board, NYPD, NYC Housing Authority, NYC Department of Sanitation, New York Public Library and The Legal Aid Society, as well as a D.J., music, dance groups, arts & crafts, food, sports, games and 20 booths (featuring college, health and beauty material).

It was apparent to all that Joy had a sense of humor like no one else. Everyone one in the family said that “she missed her calling” and that she was, undoubtedly, the funniest person they had ever met! Joy was extremely quick-witted and very visual in telling jokes and stories.

Joy was equally generous. She would often pay a friend’s rent, pay for a college student’s monthly MetroCard, give a homeless person $40 and tirelessly donated to charities, churches and non-profit organizations. Joy loved buying gifts for her family and others (including neighbors, doctors, office staff, porters and security guards). She was famous for unique, but extremely useful gifts from QVC, Home Shopping Network and ShopHQ! On any given day a bedazzled pair of shoes, a BBQ grilling utensil set, a super plush throw or a flashlight with 40 functionalities would appear at your doorstep!

Joy was a master cook in her later years…and amassed every kind of pot, pan, blender, chopper, slow cooker, knife and kitchen gadget. No one could match her lima beans with smoked neckbones, short ribs of beef, fried porgies and her Thanksgiving dinner favorite…sweet potato souffle!

She was an avid music lover, especially jazz and rhythm & blues. Some of her favorite artists were Modern Jazz Quartet, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Nina Simone, Phoebe Snow, Marvin Gaye, Minnie Riperton, Earth Wind & Fire, Ohio Players, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Boyz II Men and Joe.

Joy loved British television shows, westerns, movie classics, dramas and reality TV! We’d often find her watching Doc Martin, Gunsmoke, All About Eve, Chicago PD and Chrisley Knows Best. We’d sit for hours (with Kleenex tissues nearby) watching sharp-tongued Todd Chrisley and the antics of Chase and Nanny Faye!

Joy’s artistic style influenced her fashion sense and home décor. She marched to the beat of her own drum and wore combat boots decades before they became a fashion trend. In the 1980s, she wore Ralph Lauren collection suits and shopped (for her and her daughters) at Barney’s and Bloomingdale's. Joy and her daughters would spend hours at a time at Home Goods shopping for unique finds.

It was very apparent how much she loved her family. Joy was so very proud of her grandson, Khalid’s, educational and professional accomplishments. She wrote prayers for her family in her bible. She often recited Psalm 91 as a prayer of protection for her family.

Joy was a fighter! She fought discrimination in her workplace. Most of all, she fought for her life. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1998 and was given a seven percent chance of living. After chemotherapy, 58 rounds of radiation and a lobectomy, she beat cancer and survived 22 years afterwards. She fought to the very end after several strokes in the last year of her life. She reconfirmed her faith in March 2020 and confessed the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior. Joy passed away on April 2, 2020 at The Methodist Home for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Riverdale, NY. She is predeceased by her mother, Ann Cain, and sisters, Annette Hunt and Yvonne Cain. Joy is survived by her daughters, Kelly Mussenden and Nicole Mussenden; grandson, Khalid Robinson; nephews, Ty Hunt and Cary Hunt; stepdaughter, Nadine Granville and Goddaughter, Pamela Brady.

She touched us all and we are truly blessed to have known and been loved by her. We love you Joy, but God loves you best.