Joyce May Kirschbaum, 93, a long-time resident of Beaver Dam, passed away peacefully on Thursday, April 15, 2021, at her home.
Joyce was born to Elizabeth Mary Walker and Wesley Eugene Walker on May 26, 1927, in Dodgeville, WI. About a week later, she arrived home on the dairy farm, 7 miles NW of Dodgeville, where she grew up with her two sisters, Carol and Margaret. She thrived in the self-sufficient farm environment and especially enjoyed raising young animals.
In her youth, life was primitive, but she experienced a remarkable transition as she grew up. She attended a one-room country school that had one teacher for grades 1-8. She rode a horse to school because she suffered complications from Scarlet Fever and Rheumatic Fever. Their “plumbing” was a cistern in the basement that collected rainwater. Their refrigerator was a tiny stream that ran through the basement, fed by cool spring water. Their toilet was an outhouse and toilet paper was a Montgomery Ward catalog. Joyce did not enjoy the colored pages, since they were slippery and didn’t wipe clean. As you can imagine, the outhouse procedure was rather efficient whenever the temperature dipped below zero.
The Depression was not too harsh because, on the farm, they always had enough to eat. Plus, they made their own clothes, generated and stored their own electricity with a small gas motor and batteries, and her father did enough blacksmithing so they could usually make what they needed. (Note: they were fortunate . . . but they did have a few neighbors who borrowed money and then lost their farms to the banks during The Depression.) Wash Day was on Mondays and it consumed the day. At first, the wash was a real workout, because it was done by hand in a wooden box. Later, they graduated to a gas-powered washing machine and still later to an electric washing machine that operated off batteries. Eventually, electric power lines came through the area.
The farming community was a real community, as they depended on one another. For instance, their family owned a thrasher that was used by all the neighbors during the harvest. Indeed, Joyce spent a fair amount of time driving the ole steel-lugged McCormick-Deering tractor on neighbors’ farms. The steel lugs made for a bumpy ride on those old gravel roads. The noon meals were always served by the farmer where they worked. After one meal during the depression, the farmer told the crew that they just ate “the old tomcat.” It wasn’t too bad, though one fellow vomited after being informed of the main ingredient.
In addition to the thrasher, they also ran a sorghum mill to process sugar cane. About 12 neighbors brought their cane to the family sorghum mill. The neighbors all celebrated the 4th of July together and had annual neighborhood dances, where all the girls showed off their new dresses. During High School, Joyce stayed at a home in town, as was typical of farm girls, where she performed housekeeping duties in return for room and board.
She had a famous acquaintance, the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who visited on occasion. One of her school teachers assigned the students to conduct and document an interview. So, Joyce interviewed Wright, which was no hardship, since she always enjoyed visiting Taliesin, his school, where there were often young men with sporty cars.
After graduating from Platteville, she taught grade school in Mineral Point and in Stevenson, Washington, before raising a family with her husband, Pat Kirschbaum. Joyce and Pat worked together on a number of projects, including moving houses, and running Stan’s Realty. And, they wound up with six kids: Mitzi, Stan, Gene, Ben, Sena, and Kirby. Her grandchildren are: David, Julie, Magelyn, Forest, William, Roan, Paul, Jay, and Jenna. Her great-grandchildren are: Isabelle, Wesley, Niko, Brileigh, Kennedi, and Finnley.
She was preceded in death in 2014 by her husband and by her son-in-law, Gary Soldner.
Joyce had a wonderful capacity to make a visitor feel like he/she was the only person in the room. When you spoke with her, you had her full attention. The eternal beacon of joy and love flickered a little on Thursday when Joyce made her last transition. And for those who knew her well, that beacon went dark.
A memorial gathering is planned for June 2021 at the Veterans Center in Beaver Dam.
The Koepsell-Murray Funeral Home in Beaver Dam is caring for the family. To leave online condolences, or for directions and other information, please visit our website at www.KoepsellFH.com.