Joyce Mayes Fitz died in her home on June 30th of Alzheimer's. She was a quiet trailblazer who exhibited strength and positivity to all she encountered.
The eldest of five children, she was raised in a small and nourishing community in North Brentwood, Maryland. Her mother Marion Mayes and father Garland Mayes were hard working and loving parents who instilled in her the qualities she exuded-- love of family, support to friends, a deep and abiding faith in God and a joyful and just sense of life.
She was the first in her family to graduate from college, Howard University, where she met her husband Norman Fitz. She lived in Munich, Germany where he studied for a year. With a keen spirit of adventure, an uncanny ability to quickly and accurately assess people, an interest in other cultures and acceptance of all people, she also visited Mexico, Spain the Dominican Republic, Portugal, Greece and Italy.
Her 7th grade English students, the grade she taught most of her career, remember her as tough, fair and caring. She was among the first teachers of color at schools in Prince George's County. Maryland and Long Island, New York. She also taught in DC public schools and retired from Eastern Junior High School after over 25 years, only to substitute teach regularly at neighborhood elementary schools for ten more years. She loved children and in her last weeks and days, in her final stage of Alzheimer's, she continued to talk to and care for imaginary children.
A voracious reader, she instilled in her own family and students a love for reading. Her favorite poets were Langston Hughes and Robert Frost. She loved her "soaps" and talked about the events and characters as if they were members of her family. She pursued relentlessly any sense of injustice until it was rectified and would stop at nothing to help a family member or friend, researching issues, making a telephone call or accompanying someone to a meeting. She loved plays and movies, never missing a performance by her husband in the many roles he played in theaters and movies. Her three children always received her immeasurable support and unconditional love. She always said, "Ain't no mountain high enough..."
Her home was her favorite place and where she took her last breath after being lovingly cared for by her husband and son, Bruce, for several years. In addition to her husband, Norman and son Bruce, she is survived by her son, an educator also, Neal Fitz, daughter Lauri Fitz-Pegado, granddaughter Briana Pegado, step grandchildren Ana Lwena Sebastiao and Fernando Pegado, and their two children, Uami Kiari and Ana Denise, a sister Constance Scott, many nieces and nephews and friends.
Her life will be celebrated at a service on Friday, July 11, 11am at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, 3001 Wisconsin Ave. Contributions will be appreciated in her honor to the National. Education Association Foundation, Holy Cross Hospice Service, or the Alzheimer's Association.