OREGON CITY — Joyce Dawn-Marie Abel Higley, 85, died Jan. 28. There will be a rosary at 10:30 a.m. followed by a funeral Mass at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4, at St. John the Apostle Church, 417 Washington St.
Mrs. Higley was born July 13, 1931, to Angeline (Bloczynski) and Leon Abel in Rothschild, Wisconsin, the fifth of six children. She grew up during the Great Depression and like most people in her generation she learned how to save money by planting gardens, canning food, buying used bread, saving tinfoil, cardboard, grocery bags, containers etc. to be reused, recycled and repurposed.
She met Robert Higley through her brother, Richard who was in the Air Force. Richard asked her if she would write letters to some of his Airmen friends. The two got to know each other through their letters. They married Jan. 3, 1953, in St. Theresa Church in Rothschild while Mr. Higley was on leave from the Air Force.
Mr. Higley was stationed at McChord Air Base in Tacoma, Washington, where they lived after the wedding. After Mr. Higley left the Air Force the young family lived in Schofield and Neenah, Wisconsin.
In 1965, the family returned to the Pacific Northwest area. Mr. Higley worked at Crown Zellerback Paper Company in Oregon City, where the family made their new home. The couple raised their children in the Catholic faith, instilling tradition and values precious to them. Mrs. Higley, an efficient and practical homemaker, busied herself in raising her five children and volunteering at church. She had a green thumb when it came to growing flowers but especially Christmas cacti. Her specialty was pie making and baking, and often her family and friends were treated to her pecan cinnamon rolls and various desserts. She canned tomatoes, made pickles, sauerkraut, vegetables, meat, jams and jellies.
As the children grew older, Joyce started working part-time with St. John the Apostle religious education program as a secretary. Yet she still made sure she was actively involved in her children’s public school education by being a room mother, sewing costumes for plays and providing all-around help at their elementary school for the concerts and programs. She also enjoyed camping, bowling on a team, reading, playing bingo twice a week, and card playing with her friends. In 1976, she became a grandmother for the first time.
After her husband died in 1989, Mrs. Higley turned to more volunteer work in her church and community. She volunteered weekly at Oregon City’s Senior Center, the Red Cross Blood Drives, County elections, the Historical Society, the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Meals on Wheels and the American Cancer Society. She was an officer for her bowling league, a comptroller for her bingo groups, and often could be found adopting an older woman to drive to the grocery store, help with light housekeeping tasks, or drive to bingo.
At St. John the Apostle, she started a widows group. She was also involved on behalf of the Body of Christ there. She was chairperson of the Altar Society, a member of Catholic Daughters, a catechism teacher, headed up weekly church cleaning, was a member of Church Women United, assisted in preparing weekly bulletins, the reception coordinator, a eucharistic minister, and an active member of the church choir.
Mrs. Higley is with her husband in heaven now and all is as it should be. She was full of spunk, independent, funny and joyful right up to her very last breath. She poured out every single gift the Lord gave her onto her family, friends and her community. Her legacy of a tender, serving, loving heart will live on for generations to come. She will be greatly missed.
One thing we know for certain is that the first words she heard from Jesus as she entered the gates of Paradise were:
“Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master”
Joyce is survived by her children: Susan Jordan (Roger); Debra Reaksecker; Dennis Higley (Christine); Margaret Downs (Jeffery); and Mark Higley (Christine); 17 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.
A reception will follow the Mass. The Committal service will take place at 2 p.m. at St. John the Apostle Cemetery.
Donations may be made in her honor to St. John the Apostle Church in Oregon City; the American Cancer Society for Pancreatic Cancer Research; and the Providence Hospice Group.