EASTHAMPTON - Joy Merritt Unsworth, 87, of Huckleberry Lane in the Lathrop Community, died Monday night, March 31, at her home with her family by her side. Born in Great Barrington, Mass., on Feb. 1, 1927, she was the daughter of the late John and Esther (Miller) Merritt.
Joy graduated from Northfield School for Girls in 1945. There at a concert, she met her future husband Richard, a student at Mt. Hermon School for Boys. Joy went on to Wheaton College, where she was president of her graduating class of 1949. Richard and Joy were married later that year, on August 20, and embarked together upon lifetime careers in education.
Early on, Joy worked as a teacher of English and social studies at The Day School in New Haven, while Richard pursued a master of divinity at Yale. Joy earned a master of social work in 1959 at Smith College, where Richard served as chaplain and professor of theology. She was an instructor at Smith College's Department of Education and Child Development, and in 1968, was hired by Northampton Public Schools, as a special education tutor. In 1972, she was named educational diagnostician and learning disabilities specialist for the school district. Just three years later, Joy became the first public school psychologist in the state of Massachusetts. In 1980, Joy and Richard relocated to the wooded hills where they first met, when Richard was named headmaster at Northfield Mt. Hermon School. Soon thereafter, Joy was appointed director of special education for Greenfield Public Schools, a position she held until she retired in 1989.
Throughout her busy life, Joy charted a progressive course and was guided by a generous spirit. She studied abroad in Oslo while in college, long before study abroad programs we know them today existed. During a time when special needs children were segregated, she focused tirelessly on programs to develop skills for independence, as well as pathways and policies to achieve integration. As Richard's supportive partner, she opened her home freely to thousands of chapel and school guests: students, colleagues, writers, artists, musicians, leaders for social change, and dear friends. And despite these considerable demands, Joy always had extra room for those who needed sanctuary, and plenty of love to share with her family members, young and old.
Joy leaves her husband of 66 years, Richard Unsworth; her children, Lucy Slosser, her husband Eric and their children, Matilda and Eleanor; Molly Gotwals, her husband Tom and their daughter Hannah; John Unsworth, his wife Margaret and their children William, Thomas and his wife Lauren, as well as Eleanor; Sarah MacMillan and her children, Lewis and Abigail. Joy also leaves son-in-law Bryant Jordan; sister-in-law Margaret Unsworth (married to Richard's late brother Byron), and their children Bruce, Laura, and Alan; and cousin Betty Adams, her husband Bruce and their family.
Joy will be buried on Mount Washington in the Berkshires, next to her daughter Jane, who died in infancy.
A memorial service will be held at the Helen Hills Hills Chapel at Smith College on May 10 at 11 a.m. A private gathering is planned at the Lathrop Community this spring.
Memorial contributions may be made in lieu of flowers to the VNA and Hospice of Cooley Dickinson Hospital.
The family has entrusted the Czelusniak Funeral home of Northampton with Joy's care.
Czelusniak Funeral Home
173 North Street
Northampton, MA 01060
Published in The Recorder on Apr. 4, 2014