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1940 Joyce 2023

Joyce (Byrnes) Berger

August 16, 1940 — December 5, 2023

Little Rock, Arkansas

Joyce Berger, 83, of Little Rock, AR, passed away after a long illness and now rests in peace. She will be missed by many family members and friends who knew her as courageous, indefatigable, resourceful, very attached to all kinds of critters and always accompanied by a house full of plants. She passed her green thumb onto all her children.
Joyce worked in a variety of occupations, sometimes at two or more jobs at a time, to support and raise her four daughters by herself. She made sure they all had the necessities, but she also supported opportunities for them to play an instrument, take art lessons, to play in a baseball league and to wear well-tailored outfits she sewed herself. She invited several animals into the home over the years, including Rose, the watch goose, who eventually was released to a larger body of water where she could
thrive. Jitterbug the goat was another guest in her first Little Rock home. He wore tennis balls on his horns to ensure he could play and not hurt anyone.

Joyce was a single mom in a time when women had many fewer freedoms and she pushed hard for equality. In 1978, she was able to buy a house in her own name, but only after threatening to sue the bank for discrimination if they did not approve her mortgage. If she’d been a man, she would have automatically qualified. She helped push the Billy Mitchell Boys Club of Little Rock to admit her youngest daughter because there was no Girls Club nearby. It later became the Billy Mitchell Boys and Girls Club.
An electric soul, Joyce attracted people in need by the sheer force of her spirit. An elderly lady once showed up at her door on Thanksgiving, confused and wondering how to get home. Another lost soul left the state mental hospital and found his way into her home, thinking it was a safe place to be. Till the end, folks around her independent living facility in Little Rock brought her things – like a stray kitten who needed a home.

In 1990, Joyce moved from Little Rock to her hometown of Wichita, KS, to be near her ailing mother Mary Byrnes, and saw her fourth daughter through high school and college. In retirement, she bought a plot of land in Minor Hill, TN, where she raised chickens, more goats and fostered and cared for several dogs. She fed the raccoons and stray cats in the neighborhood as well. The goats all had names and the chickens roamed free as the Great Pyrenees, Suzie, stood vigil. Her gardens were bountiful, and she made many gallons of blackberry ice cream for family and visitors.

In January 2023, Joyce returned to Little Rock into the loving care of her sister Faith Morrison. Joyce was raised in a large Irish Catholic family and felt deeply connected to her faith. One of her favorite books was “How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe,” by Thomas Cahill. Her paperback copy had copious annotations to mark passages she wanted to remember.

Joyce is survived by four daughters including Colleen Clements, Amy Clark-Britt, Kelly DeBrine and Bethany Clare Berger; three sons-in-law including Randy Clements, Benton Britt and Fritz DeBrine; six grandchildren including Madison and Samantha Rambeau, Sean and Morgan Britt, and Hannah and Wilson DeBrine; four great grandchildren including Gage Sanders, twins Lino and Layla LaPlaca, and Ella Duckett-Britt; seven siblings including David Byrnes, Judy Byrnes, Jane Byrnes, Timothy Byrnes, Faith Morrison, Daniel Byrnes and Mary Byrnes; and many nieces and nephews.

Memorial service to be announced soon.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Humane Society of Pulaski County:

Arrangements by Arkansas Cremation, 10515 W Markham St, Ste B1, Little Rock, AR 72205.  

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