Making the most of life

Joy Connelley grew up all over the place, a veritable nomad, but she considers Moultrie her hometown. Her family lived there from her first-grade year through her seventh. They moved away but returned when she was a junior and stayed until she graduated from Moultrie High School in 1961. Her father worked with TVA and traveled as the job dictated. Her mother convinced her that moving around was a good thing. They met new people and saw new places. However, since Joy has made Baxley her home for the last 31 years, she sees the many advantages of staying in one place. Baxley is truly her home now. Her church and her friends are here. In 1989, she and the new principal, Carlton Walton, brought their families here from Folkston. That move was hard for Joy because her daughter Marty was a junior in high school and did not want to come. However, the younger daughter, G.G., was in ninth grade, and it was perfect for her. Baxley has been good for Joy and her children, who’ve long since grown up and moved away.

After finishing high school in Moultrie, Joy went to Valdosta State College and majored in elementary education, which she taught and enjoyed for quite a while. She especially enjoyed teaching fourth grade. Her first year of teaching occurred in Cocoa Beach, Florida, where she was assigned to sixth grade. She met her husband there and they moved to Pennsylvania, where she taught for another nine years. Up there, she taught second and third grades.

“You know, when you move to a new school, they put you wherever you’re needed,” Joy said, laughing. “In Pennsylvania, I had to teach phonics, and I didn’t know what I was doing, but I learned quickly. The curriculum director told me later that she had her doubts about me and phonics at first, but I made it.”

After her divorce, she and her girls moved to Tifton to live with her parents for a couple of years. She then moved the family to Sylvester where she taught in a little private school--Worth Academy—for three years. At that point she went into counseling and got back into public schools, this time in Vienna.

“I moved to Sylvester because I could find affordable housing there,” Joy said. “I couldn’t in Tifton. There was nothing in Tifton that I could afford that I was willing to move my family into.”

After Vienna, they moved on to Folkston. Ironically, G.G. and Jonathon Hickox, local band director, were in the same sixth grade class and finished the year as co-valedictorians of the class. Then the Connelleys came to Baxley and settled in to make it their permanent home.

She joined the First United Methodist Church and became very much involved.

Joy worked as a counselor in Baxley until she retired after 40 years in the field of education. She thoroughly enjoyed her job, whether at the high school working with super counselors Carolyn Bond and Pam Stone or at the primary school or at the two country schools. She loved all the people she worked with. She feels that God placed her at the elementary schools for His own purposes. She could see His hand working.

All these years she has been involved with her church and still is. Currently, she teaches Sunday school two Sundays each month. She is in United Methodist Women, is the lay delegate for the annual conference, and serves as one of the chairmen for Young at Heart.

“I sing in the choir,” Joy laughed, “which is a joke. They surround me with loud people, a wonderful idea that I love, and I do all right. I don’t plan to leave. I’m always looking for programs for Young at Heart. You know that’s the old folks’ group. I had planned to do Bingo for our St. Patrick’s Day meeting. I bought all this fun stuff, and then COVID came and we didn’t get to do it. So, the next meeting we have will be St. Patrick’s Day, no matter if it happens in December. We’re really lucky in that group. We have some great people on this team, Judy Tillman, Stephana Carter, Glynda Crummy, Michael Mayers , Debbie Stinchcomb, and Bedell Mayers so we are in great shape.”

As chairman of one of the We Care teams at church, she and her team are responsible for getting a meal to a family who has had a death. Those can be very hard times, and Joy considers it pure pleasure to serve a friend at such a time.

Joy, Pat Townley, Pat McLean, Tripp Hardee, and Margie Clotfelter worked every week for nearly a year making about 125 Chrismons for the new Christmas tree. Chrismons, meaning “Christ monograms,” traditionally are white and gold designs made from Christian symbols that signify Christ. Often displayed on an evergreen tree during the Christmas season, symbols such as stars, crosses, fish, crowns, and the alpha and omega remind Christians of Christ’s identity, his story and of the Holy Trinity. The church had a Chrismon tree, but they were about 25 years old and worn out. They salvaged and repaired a few of them.

“We made them of beads and pearls - lots of pearls,” Joy said. “Traditionally, they are gold and white with a tiny bit of silver. No color. It was fun to work on them, but we were glad to finish and put them on the new tree finally. When fire gutted the sanctuary in mid-December, we were able to clean and salvage most of them.”

Joy has acted in several plays - with the arts council (where she served for several years) and also with her church. She did minor parts and major ones. She says her last role, the one in “Three on a Bench,” was her hardest one, and she vows never to take on such a big role again.

“I could remember my lines,” she said. “I just couldn’t remember where they went.”

This multitalented lady also does a variety of crafts. She refinishes furniture to suit her tastes, taking an old black table to a bright blue and white with a few coats of paint. She is currently in the process of recovering some throw pillows; everything in her house reflects her individual taste.

COVID-19 has kept her isolated for far too long. As a people person, she misses her friends, and most people are her friends. She’s usually the first to show up with a casserole or batch of cookies when someone’s sick. She misses that too. Recently she went to a retired educator’s meeting; it felt really good to be out. She misses her bridge games and her bridge-playing friends. As patiently as possible, she anticipates the end of the virus. Fortunately, she has seen her family during this quarantine.

Marty and her husband, David Montes, live in East Cobb County close to Roswell. They have two boys and a girl. G.G. and her husband, Jason, live with their two daughters in Gray, where she teaches kindergarten, which she dearly loves.

When Joy Connelley moved to Baxley, she truly had come home. She just didn’t know it at the time.