News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, March 13, 2014
Happy birthday, Lillian Joyce
Deer Isle woman looks back at her first 100 years

Lillian Joyce, of Deer Isle, Maine, turns 100 years old in March, 2014

Lillian Joyce celebrated her 100th birthday on March 1. A party in her honor was held at the Island Community Center, where she celebrated with family, friends and neighbors. She holds on to one of her birthday gifts, “Prince Derb,” named for her father, and a gift from neighbor Charlotte Carter.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

Blessed with three children, nine grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren later, Lillian Joyce marked her 100th year on March 1, a milestone that can only be reached by living for a very long time.

When asked what she believed lay behind her long and healthy life, she smiled, then shrugged.

“It’s a wonder to me,” she said. “It must be living on the Island.”

“She takes care of herself,” said daughter-in-law Sandy Joyce.

She also lived through her fair share of adventures along with the traditional things that make up a life, like family, work and geographic changes.

She recalls one particular adventure: crossing the frozen Reach in winter “where the ferry used to run…I thought I could hear the ice creaking.”

Joyce was born on the Island, although she’s “not quite sure” if it was in Deer Isle or Stonington.

She traces back her earliest history, handed down from her parents and sisters, with help from her daughter-in-law.

“I was 6 months old…My sister left the lamp on…Mother always left the window open…”

Joyce was rushed out of her flaming house in a pail, she said, after a neighbor, Howard Carter “just burst into the house, [saying], “Derb, your front bedroom’s ablaze.”

“Derb” is her father, Dearborn Harriman.

The story helps Joyce and her daughter-in-law decide she was definitely born in Deer Isle, because after the house fire, the family moved to Stonington, saving Derb his commute to work.

“Mother and Dad [had] lived in Deer Isle and he walked to work in Stonington,” she recalled.

She grew up just a few houses up the hill from Main Street, the youngest of six daughters by 10 years, back when Stonington had its own elementary school and high school and heading to the mainland meant taking a lobster boat that towed a scow.

“The larger one, you could put on three cars,” she said. “You had to be [back] there by 6 p.m. or you stayed on the other side.”

Her father worked at Atwood Machine Corporation, until “they came out on strike,” Joyce said. “So we moved to Portland. He worked for Standard Oil Corporation.” Joyce was 5 years old.

When she turned 10, Deer Isle Granite called “and asked if he would be interested in coming back home. Mother was more than interested,” Joyce said.

She grew up in a Stonington that swelled in the summer but didn’t cater to tourists, she said. Back then, there was a handful of grocery stores, including T.E. Boyce, where Joyce worked for a bit, Crockett’s Clothing Store, and other shops that met the needs of a working town.

After marrying Harold Joyce, and with sons Drew and Blaine and daughter Bonnie, the family moved to Florida in the early 1960s, but returned to the Island nearly every summer.

Joyce’s husband died at age 44, after 22 years of marriage, and while she never remarried, she still likes a bit of adventure. At 85 years old, she traveled with her son and daughter-in-law out west. “It was the best trip of my life,” she said. “We saw the Painted Desert, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite…Went up the coast to California.”

Shortly after her travels, in 2000, “I finally moved back,” she said.

Her neighbors, especially Charlotte Carter next door, look out for each other. “If [Charlotte] hears a noise, she thinks I’ve fallen. She’s right here.”

Joyce goes off Island on shopping trips and “occasionally” to the weekly lunch at the Island Community Center.

“I love having company,” she said.

On March 1, Joyce kept company with nearly 70 people, when she brought her rocking chair to the Island Community Center to celebrate her birthday.

“It was a bash,” she said.

Joyce still likes a good walk outside her Deer Run apartment, although the winter weather has kept her inside. “As soon as it gets warm,” she said, with a glance at the snow outside. “I’m [still] getting around pretty well…[My] doctor said I was the healthiest patient he had—and some were younger.”