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Joyce Rae Johnson


Joyce Rae Johnson, age 87, formerly of Des Moines, Iowa, passed away peacefully at her daughter’s home on November 2, 2022. She was with family and surrounded by love.


Joyce was born April 25, 1935, in Des Moines, to Herbert and Laurella Murray. She was very proud of her heritage: Scottish, French, Irish, German, and English. Her family moved quite often, living in the Waterloo and Cedar Falls area until settling in Des Moines after her graduation in 1953. As an adult, Joyce worked for the Farm Bureau Insurance Agency, 10 years for Look Magazine and retired after 33 years with the U.S. Postal Service. In 1956, she married Cecil Johnson. They had four children and, sadly, lost their infant daughter in 1962. They were married 23 years, divorcing in 1979.


Growing up during the Depression and changing schools often, the Murray siblings formed a strong bond. They roamed the Iowa State Teacher’s College campus and with her long blonde hair and her love of climbing trees, Joyce earned the nickname “Jungle Joyce”. During a favorite part of her childhood, her family ran a sandwich shop called Murray’s where she and her siblings handed out milk to the many student customers.


Memories of Joyce as a mother include having picnics under the giant Oaks trees, making fudge late at night, playing kickball with the neighborhood kids, doing handiwork together (embroidery and crochet), and watching Mom and Dad at their square-dancing club.


After her children were grown, she developed a variety of interests. Horses had a special place in her heart, and she went on several horseback riding trips to Colorado with her close friend, Art. They also enjoyed visiting her grandchildren in Kentucky and Utah. Nature was her life-long passion and she passed on her knowledge to her three children. Joyce enjoyed yard work and just being outdoors, often planning and planting with her daughter, Jean. Volunteering, she took care of her apartment building’s grounds for over 30 years. She was a regular walker and took joy in seeing all the flowers, plants, and animals. She was an avid bowler and participated in two senior bowling leagues into her 80’s. She was a gifted artist and drawing portraits was her specialty. She drew portraits of her son’s three children. After moving to her daughter, Anngie’s, home in Northfield, she shared precious time with her great grandchildren. They had lots of fun bird watching and chickadees were a favorite. Working on puzzles, quilting, and reading her Bible reflected the quietness she preferred. Joyce was an active and devoted member of her church. Over the years, she sang in the choir, took care of the food pantry, and cared for the grounds: raking, trimming, and planting flowers. Her love of God and devotion to her church was a central part of her life.


Joyce will be missed for her quiet stillness, her flashes of humor, her detail-oriented mind, the strong way she handled adversity, and her beautiful smile. Her family carries on her love of nature and her Artistic talent. She was loved and will be missed.


Joyce is survived by her sister: Marilynn (Radford) Melcher of Fremont, NE; brothers: David (Maribeth) Murray of Sun City, AZ and John (Marianne) of Tucson, AZ; children: Anngie (Greg) Kleese of Northfield, Mn, Jean Johnson of Des Moines, IA, and David Johnson of Northfield, MN; her grandchildren: Isaac, Katie (Rigel), Hannah (Antwan), Emma, Adam, Erin (Mike), Mariel, Ryan, Megan (Andrew), Andrew, and Ben; great-grandchildren: Will, Penelope, Persephone, Max, James, Liam, and two more expected this Winter; cousins, nieces and nephews, and other relatives and friends.


In death, Joyce is reunited with her parents: Herbert and Laurella Murray; her siblings: Ann and Jack; and her infant daughter: Donna Sue.


A thank you goes out to the caregivers who helped her through her last years with their gentleness and kindness: Karen, Donna, Allyssa, and the activity staff at NRC; Deb, Mya, Vicki, Yvonne, Denise, Patricia, and Lisa. Thank you to Linda and Pastor Julia who brought much needed physical and spiritual comfort to Joyce. A special thank you goes to Marsha who stepped in at a moment’s notice and helped in so many ways. Each of you made such a difference in Joyce’s life.


A memorial service will be held at 1:30 pm Saturday, November 12, with visitation at 12:30 pm at Heritage Assembly of God Church in Des Moines, IA. The service will be live streamed and can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100064457688910. Joyce will be laid to rest at Laurel Hill Cemetery following the service.


Memorials may be directed to Greater Des Moines Botanical Center, designating the name of Joyce Johnson, or to Heritage Assembly of God Church in Des Moines, Iowa.