If you’ve spent any time at all with FHFG, you already know Joyce Sauber. She’s the gracious lady serving refreshments at the garden tour, or giving wise counsel at a FHFG board meeting (since the 1990s!), or explaining about the early history of Forest Grove and Gales Creek to those newcomers in the corner. She’s an indispensable part of the FHFG organization, and when she murmurs it’s about time for her to step down from the board, the rest of the board members all frantically try to explain to her things just wouldn’t be the same without her. Joyce is one of a kind.
One of Joyce’s earliest memories was going outdoors on a beautiful sunny February day, and deciding (at the age of three or four) that since the sun was shining, it would be a good time to dip her toes into the ‘crick’ right near her house.
“Oh, those beautiful February days,” she said, reminiscing with a smile. “And my feet turned blue, that water was so cold!”
The water has always called to her and to her family; for 37 years her family had a second house at Netarts on the Oregon coast. Joyce, her husband Bill, and her children, Janet and Jill, became experts at finding agates along the shore, although she noted it’s a lot harder to find them these days.
When Joyce was young, she received her education in a two-room schoolhouse in Gales Creek. During World War II, most of the teachers were working for the war effort, and the quality of schooling suffered. Luckily, along came Jennie Ranes, the fourth-grade teacher who managed to pack four years of important learning into one. The school was later named for her.
Jennie also taught Joyce many life lessons that became part of her work ethic. One day, Joyce visited Mrs. Ranes, who lived very near. She watched the lady churning butter, which looked like fun. “Can I do that? Can I do that?” begged Joyce. “Well, yes,” replied the teacher, “but if you start, you must finish.” After some “Oh, but I’m tired” attempts to stop, Joyce learned Mrs. Ranes was serious: once you started a task, it was necessary to complete it. Still, the sugar cookies with gooseberry jam the little girl could smell clear across the field were enough to lure her back again and again.
Joyce’s high school in Forest Grove was made up of students from all over the area. The students were very close and remain so. Joyce still hosts school reunions in her backyard every year.
After graduation, Joyce went to San Francisco to study to become a dental assistant….a new vocation at that time. She still remembers going into the city by bus, registering for school, and finding a place to live, all in one day. Remembering how daunting San Francisco was at first, she laughed.
“I was just a young girl from Gales Creek, remember.”
Joyce worked as a dental assistant for 39 years. Because all three of the dentists she worked for were advocates of preventive dentistry, Joyce did her postgraduate study in the field, and she is very pleased three of the children she taught became dental hygienists, and one a Forest Grove dentist.
Joyce met her husband Bill when they were in high school, but they did not immediately start dating. When Bill asked Joyce’s best friend if Joyce would go out with him, Joyce told her friend a simple “No.” Bill was persistent, though, and before long they began dating.
After a few months, Bill left for the Army. When he came home at Christmas, they became engaged and were married the following October. They had been married for 55 years when he died in 2012. One of Joyce’s proudest accomplishments is her family. Her smile widens every time she mentions Brandon, Alex, and Grant, her three grandsons, and Madelynn, her great-granddaughter.
The list of Joyce’s accomplishments would fit a small atlas, but I’ll name just a few. She is a gifted writer; she wrote for the Hillsboro Argus for 30 years, and the News-Times for many years as well. She has been a Campfire Girls leader, president of the Gales Creek Garden Club, and she has always been involved with programs that promote reading. To this day, she’s at the Gales Creek school library every Wednesday evening from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., keeping the library open for the children, even though the school is closed. Joyce is hopeful the school will re-open in the next few years, but meanwhile, she is determined to keep the library going.
History has always been one of her passions, and Joyce willingly shares stories from her family’s days on the Oregon Trail (the Shorbs came from Maryland to Kansas to Oregon in 1864, and the Armstrong-Lambersons came to Sauvie Island on the Trail in 1846.) Joyce still owns the large family Bible, a wicker rocking chair, a coal-oil lantern, and a copy of the wagon master’s diary from those trips.
One of Joyce’s dreams is to be able to watch children learning about their heritage at a fully-restored A.T. Smith house museum. As she noted quietly, “We have to treasure the history that we have because it is so valuable.” Another treasure she truly appreciates is her relationships, some going back to her childhood. “I am so fortunate to have lots of friends, and my long-term friendships are a true blessing.” Well, coming from all of us who know her, we consider Joyce to be a true blessing too.
About Diane Morris
Diane is a memmber of Friends of Historic Forest Grove