A Real Joy: Joye Goodwin, 1923-2009

Joye Goodwin-1

Published by San Diego Voice & Viewpoint and other publications in March 2009.

On Mar. 22, 2009 in Valley Center, Calif., friends, relatives and the world lost a treasure in the passing of Joye Goodwin. She was 86.

In her lifetime, she raised championship Great Danes and show horses, played a part in the Civil Rights movement and accomplished many firsts for black women but she was most proud to be a mother of three, a devoted wife and a comforting hand to a countless number of patients in nearly half a century of nursing.

Joye Mary Speights-Goodwin was born in Bakersfield, Calif. Mar. 7, 1923. Early in life her parents instilled in her a love for education, nature’s plants and animals and helping others.

At age five, Joye fell asleep in a box at a church picnic. When she woke up and popped out, there was eight-year-old Luther Goodwin. Later that day he told her friend that he’d met the girl he was going to marry. He kept his promise 16 years later after the two reunited at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In her teens, while at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, Joye would integrate the Girls Athletic Association, become the first black to win a citywide debate contest and be her school’s first African American valedictorian.

As World War II challenged the world, Luther enlisted in the Army. He failed his first physical but with Joye’s help he passed the second, and became a 1st Lt. and Tuskegee Airmen, flying a B-52 bomber in missions over Europe and later fighter jets in the Korean war.

While Luther was at war, Joye completed the first of three nursing related degrees from UC Berkeley and UCSF.

She was a delivery nurse, a school nurse, a visiting nurse, a supervising nurse on hospital wards and a nursing instructor at the Muhimbili School of Nursing in Tanzania.

After the war, they moved to San Francisco and continued to raise Antar Ra (Ralph), Vicki and Becky (Hope) in the family’s Sunset district home across from the ocean.

When Civil Rights topped America’s agenda, Joye served as the chair of the NAACP’s San Francisco Housing Committee and Luther did what he could as the second black Deputy District Attorney in city history. Her children also participated, protesting alongside their parents.

The Goodwin’s moved to San Diego in 1964 where life would continue until moving to Tanzania in 1971.

After almost a year in east Africa, the family returned home after Ralph drowned while attempting to rescue a Cuban national from the undertow in Havana. Later that year, 13-year-old Vickie passed away from endometrial cancer and 10 years later Luther died of a heart attack.

Now the Goodwins were just Joye and Becky. Overcome with grief, Joye buried herself in helping others. Before retiring from nursing, she wrote a grant to establish Children Having Children in 1984, a program intent on helping young mothers 13 to 24 reach for life before parenthood.

Since its founding, Children Having Children has helped lower pregnancy rates in southeast San Diego, said N. Diane Moss, organization director since 1988, and educated thousands of young parents.

“Strong, focused, committed,” said Moss. “She was the driving force for making this organization what it is and to this day we always think of Joye or what she would say when putting new programs together.”

Joye and Becky moved into a home in rural Valley Center in northeast San Diego in 1989. There Joye and her daughter bred Great Danes and show horses and Joye returned to her love of gardening, growing flowers and every variety of organic fruit, vegetable and nut.

The specific cause of her death is unknown but Joye and all she treasured suffered in 2006 when 35 gallons of hydraulic fluid was released into the air by a broken coupling on a dump truck.

The fluid covered her house and soaked into the soil on her property, killing the plants and trees. A dog developed lymphomas, two horses developed cancer, another two chronic health problems. And Joye, who walked outside shortly after the accident, immediately had trouble breathing; her health deteriorated.

Joye passed away shortly after 4 a.m. Sunday. She is survived by her daughter Becky, numerous nieces, nephews and cousins, a brother and sister-in-law, friends worldwide and the dream of a children’s project.

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