A Life Lived: Joyce Vinney found love and kindness in her daily walk to town

Published 12:19 pm Tuesday, June 2, 2020

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By Rozella Hardin
Editorial Director
Joyce Francis Vinney was not known by name to many people. To most, she was known as the “little lady seen walking in town with a scarf tied around her head and carrying an umbrella and a large purse.”
Vinney, 83, died May 22 in the Johnson City Medical Center after a brief hospitalization.
She lived on Bluefield Avenue above East Side School in an old, run-down house with her dog, Whitey, which is now in the care of the Carter County Animal Shelter. Almost every day except Saturday and Sunday, she made the trip to town. She was befriended by many people, who often gave her a ride to and from her home.
Joyce Estey Finney was born to Bonnie and Ernest Estey of Roan Mountain. Her father was killed in World War II and at some point in her young life, Joyce married and moved to Chicago, Ill. Having only an eighth grade education, she worked briefly as a waitress and had a family. When her husband died at a young age leaving with her three young children, she left them with her husband’s mother in Tomah, Wisc., and moved back to Chicago. She later married Albert Vinney and they moved to Tennessee.
Her daughter, Jeannie Moody, who was in town last weekend, spoke fondly of her mother. “We kept in touch through the years, but her life was here and mine was in Wisconsin. When Albert died, we tried to get her to move back to Wisconsin, where she would be near us, but, she wouldn’t. Claimed she needed to stay here so that when she died she could be buried at the VA Cemetery with him,” said Jeannie.
“She gave us to my grandmother when we were young because she felt we would be better cared for. She had our best interest at heart,” her daughter shared.
“My mother was a believer and attended East Side Baptist Church. But, she did not have much in her life except her dog and the people she met along the way. Every day she stopped at Wendy’s on her way home and purchased a hamburger for Whitey. People in Elizabethton were wonderful to her. They gave her rides, brought her food, and befriended her in many ways,” said Jeanie, who expressed her gratitude to those who were kind to her mother.
“The old house she lived in was not fit to live it. She was a hoarder and the house was packed full of junk. It was in deplorable condition. She had a hospital bed she slept in. And, stacked to the ceiling all around her was stuff,” Jeanie shared.
“My mother was a lonely person, so she got up every day and walked to town. It was the only life she knew. As far as I know she went to the same places every day,” she shared. “She was a very stubborn person and had her own way of doing things.”
Jeanie has a brother, who is a paramedic in Dallas, Tex. A second brother, who is deceased, was a highway patrolman.
Most people did not know Joyce Vinney nor the life she lived. They did not know her loneliness, the broken-down home she lived in. Nor did they experience her kindness or gentle touch. There’s a saying: “Never judge someone without knowing the whole story. You may think you understand. But you don’t.”
To those who took the time to know Joyce, she was kind, loving and had a big smile for those she met along the way.
A private inurnment was planned at the VA Cemetery at Mountain Home.

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