Tuesday, August 13, 2013



Joyce Marie Clarke Turvey lived her large and wonderful life from November 28, 1928, until August 6, 2013.  A Montana girl always, she lived in California a few years while raising her family -- but returned to her much-loved childhood home of East Glacier Park 36 years ago.

As the adopted daughter of a woodcarver, John Clarke, and his wife Mamie, Joyce was raised simply but with art and artists, a love for the outdoors, horses and as many dogs as they could safely feed.  Her interest in photography led her to Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, where she met and married Irv-- WWII vet, photographer and Hollywood cameraman.

With a work ethic as big as the Montana skies, she took her job with Avon to a management level and earned trips to wonderful places, including Bermuda and New York City.  After retiring from Avon, Joyce opened the John L. Clarke Art Gallery in 1977 -- and although recovering from a broken hip last fall, proudly opened the gallery this summer, right up until her death.  A published photographer in her own right, her photos were featured items at the Clarke Gallery.

In her “twilight” years, she was able to travel more and more, adventuring to Europe twice (one with daughter, Dana, and once for Christmas in Vienna), Hawaii a few times, a cruise down the Mexico coastline and various trips with her motorhome through the west.  

Her husband, Irvin Turvey, Jr., preceded her in 1969.  She leaves behind her daughters, Dana Turvey and Sharon Ewing, granddaughter Chantell DeLay, cousin Larry Snyder, sister-in-law Doris Hansel, super-sister from another mother, Brenda Bailey, and her two beloved pooches, Quannah and Bruce.  Joyce’s wide range of friends are too numerous to list in one printing, but the love and appreciation of these friendships were one of her biggest treasures.

The Church of the Assumption in East Glacier is out at the edge of a bluff looking over the gorge where Midvale Creek goes on its way to meet Two Medicine River, and then looks up the foothills of aspen and pine to the Rocky Mountains behind East Glacier.  “Assumption” is when the Virgin Mary, who was too Immaculate to die, simply went up into the sky like a rocket to Heaven.  It would be easy from this place .  The church is a round log design with wall-sized windows on the side in the lee of the wind, which means south and west.  I was there early, but the first person was already Steve Barcus with his wife and daughter.  Steve, who was the mayor of Browning for many years and on the school board that hired me in 1961, had performed the marriage for Joyce and Irv.  Steve’s wife, always full of ideas and flair, is now in a wheelchair because of a stroke, but she was there.

It was a two-dog funeral.  Father Ed Kohler is the gentlest and most generous of men and now, of course, the Pope is named for Saint Francis who loved animals.  The dogs, good-sized generic shepherds, are what I call “camp dogs,” (one black-and-white, one blue merle) and since they knew most of the people attending, they went from one knee to another, comforting and smiling.  Most of us were older women in dresses who knew each other.  They are the village, the ones who get things done.  Joyce’s friends.

The first boombox song was “I Dreamed a Dream”.  The second was “Amazing Grace” and the little congregation began to hum along, and then softly sing until the verse that was bagpipes and the one that was a velvet tenor.  I didn’t know the third song, a duet.  The fourth was a surprise: what sounded like a didgeridoo and a Hindu chant!  The younger people told me it was by Krishna Das, whom I had not known.

The Clarke burial ground is up a road behind the Big Hotel and these days it’s only a horse trail, much eroded by the cataracts from heavy rain this spring.  The women parked by “Clarke Avenue” and walked in groups, linking arms so the younger ones could steady the older ones.   Doris Sherburne is 91.  They walked with skirts swaying in that eternal way that women do when when they’re not in a hurry, just full of purpose.  On both sides of the road were clouds of spotted knapweed, which is toxic, but beautiful with purple flowers if you can forget its wicked nature.  The day was overcast, but not the kind with low gray skies -- rather with towering shifts of amethyst geode that moved light across the cool land. 

The backhoe had done its job, but the cemetery itself has not been cared for so it was a rank tangle of burrs and reeking weeds the machine had crushed.  Helen Clarke’s tall headstone with the cross on top was nearby and Horace’s stone was next to hers, but had been twisted off the base.  I couldn’t see John’s stone, though Bob and I attended his burial. 

It was in January, and when they lay his coffin down in the arms of roots, great goose feathers of snow floated down on us.  Dana had asked some of us to throw red roses into the grave.  One of the women paired her rose with a wild bluebell she picked nearby.

When I threw mine, I said the Blackfeet prayer I learned in the Sixties:  “Natoosi, (Old Man Sun), Keepatahkee (Old Woman Moon), Keemokit, Spumokit, (Pity us, help us.)   Unyiyee.  (That’s enough.  The end.)”  I noticed that Father Kohler made the gesture of hands crossed on the chest that is the Blackfeet sign of acceptance and thanks. 

I felt the spirit of Joyce as I traveled up the east slope.  It was a trip marked by young men:  the Blackfeet clerk at the gas station in Valier; a young Navajo man who was working in the little sundries shop in the Big Hotel; a handsome wanderjahr who had linked up with a local girl and who says he wants to write; a hiker on the trail when we all walked out -- he had left New Orleans to find a new place.  Joyce would have loved them and flirted happily while she found out more about them.  She took good care of her artists.

In fact, it was a man once young like that who wrote the piece Dana read as eulogy.  Ray Djuff is a journalist who worked for a Calgary newspaper for decades and now writes books about Glacier Park.  He’s at work on a book about Two Guns Whitecalf who may or may not be the profile on the buffalo nickel.   (The tribal buffalo herd was lounging peacefully alongside a pothole lake as I drove up Highway 2.)  In the process, since he is a first-source kinda guy who interviews people and reads original files instead of books, he has learned a lot about the Clarke family: how Malcolm -- that stiff-necked ODD case -- had gotten into a brawl with his Blackfeet wife’s family and been killed, triggering a terrible massacre in retaliation; how Malcolm’s daughter Helen toured Europe with Sarah Berhardt; and how Joyce was the adopted daughter of John (Horace’s son) and Mamie when Mamie was fifty.  It is usual on the reservation for older people to adopt children.  Ray's email was about first meeting Joyce when he was an adventurous but wary young park employee and then the great pleasure of finding her again when he was doing research.   So many of we history dabblers felt she represented a fabled time.

But to her family and neighbors, she was their familiar friend.  There are many stories about her -- she was not necessarily easy-going!  We didn’t tell the stories that weren’t suitable for a funeral, but we’ll tell them later.  In the meantime, Father Ed’s homily proposed that on this earth we are all struggling infants and that death is a New Birth that sets us free in a place we can’t even imagine.  No sitting on a cloud twiddling your toes and humming.  Get ready to rumble the galaxies!  (He didn’t actually use those words, but I do!)  Joyce was ready.


R.B. McNeil said...

Thank you for this wonderful narrative about my friend, Joyce. Knowing more about her unique life is comforting. I will miss her.


Anonymous said...

I can still hear her voice, and what a life. Doris is actually 93 and Bruce Montana her dog is a Border Collie.

Mary Strachan Scriver said...

THANKS for the comments. They are very welcome. I didn't know Joyce as well as I knew her father, but we were both Keepers of the Flame and often sat together at events.

Prairie Mary
AKA Mary Scriver

bluecrane2 said...

Mary, interesting article. However, I was NOT adopted; I am Joyce's natural daughter, as is my sister. Also, I said that family rumor had out we may have some Mohawk so it's completely unconfirmed.

Mary Strachan Scriver said...

So sorry to have gotten it wrong! Please accept my apologies! I must have misinterpreted what you said. I am totally red-faced.

Mary Scriver

Anonymous said...

Mary...so sweet to have a written and pictoral reference for that day. My mom would have loved that you were there and, as a writer, I also appreciate your natural flow with words.

The song you didn't know was a duet by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli titled "The Prayer" - Joyce adored Andrea more than any singer. Since we couldn't get him there in person...

Thank you again for taking the time to post this...Dana

Anonymous said...

Mary, Thanks for the article. For those of us who loved Joyce "long distance", we truly appreciate what you have written. We felt as if we were there with you all....

Joyce was much loved and will be much missed.

Jim and Patti Curtis, Bedford, Texas