Joyce Kachergis(1925 - 2018)

Joyce Webster Kachergis

February 9, 1925 – January 1, 2018


Joyce Webster Kachergis—award-winning book designer; mother, grandmother and great grandmother; fierce Democrat; mentor and friends to many of all generations—died Monday Jan. 1, 2018, at the age of 92.

Joyce was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the youngest of 6 children, to Lawrence Benjamin Webster and Olga Webster. Her father was a lawyer and an inventor awarded several patents; her mother was a social worker, suffragist, and political activist. When her mother ran for Nebraska Secretary of State, young Joyce accompanied her on the campaign trail. Their family helped feed the Great Depression poor and at 17 she devoted herself to the war effort, playing a leading role at a factory making uniforms—all experiences that Joyce noted were life-shaping.

Joyce studied at Stephens College in Columbia Missouri and briefly worked at Hallmark designing cards. Pursuing her interest in graphic design, she attended the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts. There she met artist George Joseph Kachergis. They married in 1946.

Joyce and George moved to Peoria, and then to Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1949, first residing in Victory Village. George was a professor of Studio Art at Bradley University and then at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. They co-founded Serigraph Studios, designing and silk screening Christmas cards.

Joyce often spoke of fast-growing Chapel Hill's post-war optimism and intellectualism and how it shaped her outlook. She was involved in many civic activities, including the League of Women Voters, and helping start the Chapel Hill Young People's Orchestra.

Joyce and George lived in Chapel Hill until 1969, when they moved to their beloved property in Chatham County. George preceded Joyce in death in 1974.

Joyce's career as an internationally recognized book designer had begun at UNC Press in 1962. In 1977, after her husband's death, Joyce briefly left Chatham County to become Design and Production Manager at Stanford University Press.

In 1980, Joyce returned to her Pittsboro home and founded Kachergis Book Design with her daughter Anne Kachergis, work she continued even after retirement. Here, as at UNC Press and Stanford University Press and briefly at Radcliffe, Joyce mentored many in scholarly book design as publishing technology changed rapidly during the late 20th Century. Her book designs received many prestigious awards, including the Leipzig International Book Design Exhibition, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, among others.

Joyce pioneered a holistic approach to book design, mastering how typography, printing techniques interfaced with design. Recognizing the written word as the binding agent of civilization, Joyce especially valued bringing clarity and dignity to scholarly works. She liked the detail work with charts and graphs to make complexity straightforward, as well as bringing finesse to poetry books' designs, for poets such as John Cage.

An early adopter of using computers for book design and typesetting, Joyce applied for and received a grant from the Kresge Foundation for UNC Press to establish an in-house composition facility, which became a model for other university presses.

In 1989 Joyce married Jess Bell, a retired scholarly book editor at Stanford University Press. Jess preceded her in death in 2001.

In her later years, Joyce became involved with the Chatham County Democratic Women, designing and contributing articles for a newsletter recognized statewide for its excellence. She proudly participated in the Women's March in Raleigh in 2017.

"Splendid!" "Grand!" "Magnificent!"—from tasty tomatoes and other garden bounty, to her Apple Watch, to marveling at how her granddaughter was born precisely a century later than her mother, to watching an opera, or noting a well-turned phrase in the New York Review of Books, and more—Joyce radiated enthusiasm and joy to all around her. She had friends of all generations and cherished each of them.

Joyce is survived by her children, Peter W. Kachergis (Amy Munice) of Chicago, Karl G. Kachergis (Marjorie Fowler) of Pittsboro, Anne O. Kachergis (Owen Crankshaw) of Pittsboro; grandchildren, Emily J. Kachergis (Jeff Tejral) of Denver, George E. Kachergis of Nijmegen, NL, Nels L. Theilgard of Pittsboro, Peter J. Theilgard of Pittsboro; and great-grand children, Hayden L. and Selena I. Tejral of Denver.

A memorial service to celebrate her life will be held at a later time.

The family thanks UNC Home Health Care and UNC Hospice for their compassionate care.

Memorial contributions may be made to the George J. Kachergis Scholarship Fund at UNC-Chapel Hill, online at <>.

Published in The News & Observer on Jan. 10, 2018