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Obituary: Joyce Peck


Joyce Bainton Peck was born in New Haven, Conn., on Sept. 17, 1927 to Roland Herbert Bainton and Ruth Woodruff Bainton, the middle child of five siblings: Olive, Herbert (deceased), herself, Cedric and baby Ruth (deceased). The family raised goats, chickens and organic vegetables in Woodbridge, Conn., with homemade “Heidi” murals in their basement.

Joyce completed her undergraduate studies at Smith College in Massachusetts and earned a master’s degree in education at North Adams State Teachers’ College and a master’s degree in music at UNC-CH. She taught in the voice departments at UNC-CH and Duke in an adjunct capacity. Organizations like University Women, the Chapel Hill Music Teachers’ Association, The Three Arts and the Justice and Peace Commission of the Church of Reconciliation filled her busy days most recently.

Gardening, child care and vocal pedagogy were mainstays in Joyce’s life while she was a talented vocal soloist balancing personal career options and attending to her family’s needs. As fiancées, Joyce and her husband-to-be, William Jay Peck, went to work in the German refugee camps after the Holocaust. Together, they also responded to growing Hispanic needs in a Mayan partnership, leading mission trips to Guatemala featuring 23 annual weaving sales, the profits from which support the work of indigenous people. Raised Quaker and congregational, she heartily embraced her in-laws’ Presbyterian roots by joining, with Bill, the Church of Reconciliation, a Chapel Hill congregation committed to racial equality, in the 1960s.

Her love of the Spanish language included her appreciation of the local Tertulia group, classes with Rosa Perlmutter and film gatherings at Chicle in Carrboro. She loved donating to charities like Oxfam, CROP Walk and the Guatemalan support group of the Church of Reconciliation.

She is survived by her husband of 60 years, UNC-CH Professor Emeritus of the Department of Religious Studies Dr. William Jay Peck, of Massachusetts. They raised four children: Christopher Martin Peck (deceased), Timothy Bainton Peck, Steven Dudley Peck (deceased) and Kathryn Melissa Peck. She enjoyed “grandmother bliss” 14 and a half years with Guatemalan adoptee Alyee Peck Whitesides, a current Chapel Hill High School freshman with wonderful parents, Tim Peck and S. Janet Whitesides.

Joyce rallied hard for six weeks with ovarian and peritoneal cancer and was surrounded by her family.

A memorial service will be held at the Church of Reconciliation on Saturday, March 5, 2011 at 2 p.m., led by Rev. Mark Davidson. In lieu of flowers, special family messages and quotes for compilation should be sent to churchrec@churchrec.org with joycepeck in the subject line.

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  1. Cindie Moore

    I feel blessed to have known Joyce Peck, the wife of my cousin Bill Peck. She exhibited dedication and drive, especially in her coordination of annual sales of Guatemalan weavings at the Church of the Reconciliation in Chapel Hill. The latest sale was just a few months ago, in the Fall of 2010. The proceeds of the sale support work of indigenous people in Guatemala. Cindie Moore

  2. Ross L Pipes

    My wife, Nancy, daughter, Marta Maria, and I were blessed by the friendship of Joyce Peck. There are few people I’ve known in my nearly 70 years of life who have given more of themselves to reduce the pain of human suffering as have Joyce and Bill Peck. We’ve traveled to the Western Highlands of Guatemala with Joyce and Bill and have participated in the Guatemala Support Group they formed at Chapel Hill’s Church of Reconciliation about 25 years ago. Joyce and Bill were involved in supporting the needs of the Mam Mayan Indians of Guatemala long before starting the support group, as Bill’s parents were missionaries who served their entire life serving the needs of Mam living in Guatemala. Joyce was a strong and courageous woman who was unceasing in her effort to raise funds to support the needs of the very poor Mam Mayan Indians who reside in the area around San Juan Ostuncalco, Guatemala. Joyce’s Mayan weaving sales are famous, but beyond this effort, Joyce constantly penned hand-written notes to hundreds of people throughout the U.S. to raise funds. She will be especially remembered for improving the lives of sweet women and children who’ve not had the benefit of an education and who have lived in great poverty. I’ll never forget walking the dusty roads and through hills and farms behind Joyce as she trudged forward, ahead of everyone who followed, to reach the next destination. She also had an absolutely beautiful voice and loved to sing. We will greatly miss Joyce Peck.

  3. Maria Salgado

    Dan and I were saddened by Joyce’s death. I will always remember her smiling face at the Guatemalan events at the Church of the Reconciliation. She was a joy to know, but despite how loved and cherished she was in this world, I am sure she is now in a better place. Wish we could help you at this sad time in your life, if we can, let us know. Maria

  4. Frank B. Smith

    Joyce,, I only offer this prayerfully because I know that you and have already hooked up and talking about the Mam Center ! I will seeing your smiling face…….. Love Frank Smith

  5. alice schrade

    i have only known Joyce and Bill for 20 or so years and all because of the Guatemala connection. i have only today learned of her passing. I remember her as a passionate, kind loving Christian woman. She offered advice to me when we were sending letters to Guatemala during the war. She said don’t use your correct name because it’s too dangerous. The letters were petitioning the president and others to end the war . We kept in touch a lot in those days, but in the last years had only talked a couple of times a year. Sadly , we know when some of us are gone that we should have kept up with each other more often, and i will miss knowing she’s in Chapel Hill with Bill. She is now with all of us all the time. I will never forget her.