Joyce Sobel 1943-2018

Joyce Sobel

Joyce Sobel finally retired on Tuesday afternoon January 24th. Her family is deeply saddened and misses her already. She still had much to give and will be greatly missed by all that knew her. She never liked going off island and kept her wish until the end.

Joyce was born on May 19th 1943 in Quincy, Massachusetts to Robert and Dorothea Leavens. She attended N. Quincy High School and went on to graduate from Jackson College of Tufts University in 1964.

After graduation, Joyce served in the Peace Corp in Kenya in 1965 and 1966 where she was a secondary school teacher. She married Lance Sobel and gave birth to their son Duncan, while stationed in Kenya.

She received a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Erikson Institute of Loyola University of Chicago in 1970. She then served as the Director of the Evanston (IL) Day Nursery.

Joyce and her family moved to Friday Harbor in 1975. She was not new to Island life, having spent her childhood at a family cottage on Bakers Island, Massachusetts. On San Juan, she found her home for the rest of her life. Over the next 43 years, Joyce dedicated her life to the community of her new island. As a mentor, activist, spokes person and advocate for those without a voice. She started many programs for those who had a need and spent countless hours supporting children and families of the Island. Although she wished to remain quietly behind the scenes, she was never afraid to be heard when she deemed it necessary. She was a woman of strong action and perseverance. Joyce’s passion was giving to her community, and she took great pride in knowing she had served it well.

Joyce is survived by and greatly missed by her son Duncan, his wife Mary and the apples of her eye, her two grandchildren Veronica and Logan of Los Angeles CA. She is also survived by and greatly missed by her brother Robert and his partner Betsy of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Ultimately, Joyce is survived by us all. Although we are currently filled with sadness and grief, her memory will live on and she will continue to inspire us. Her greatest gift is that we will feel her presence for years to come, in the multitude of ways she touched so many lives big and small.

A memorial celebration of Joyce’s life will be held on the Island, at a later date this spring/summer.

If you would like to celebrate Joyce and the tremendous work she accomplished, please consider making a gift to the San Juan Island Community Foundation and request that it go to the “SJI Family Resource Center Changing Lives” fund. All proceeds will be used for the SJI Family Resource Center’s current Building Expansion initiative, and to support the center’s free programs and services.

Posted on January 27, 2018 at 12:20 pm by

Categories: Obituaries, People


  1. Thank you Joyce for all you gave to so many Islanders. You were quiet and gracious and kind and loved so very much! I will miss your smile and friendly words. Peace to you and your family! Love, Jaime

    Comment by Jaime Ellsworth on January 27, 2018 at 3:59 pm
  2. For me, Joyce Sobel was the woman here who understood more about people and their needs, and was their friend, than anyone else I knew.

    Early this morning I woke up wanting information about early child development, and I dismissed the wonderings, thinking to myself, “I’ll ask Joyce”.

    Then my body went tight, realizing that this would not happen. Joyce’s death last week has left a huge hole on San Juan Island, and because of her, many of us have memories that shape our thinking and our lives. She was an unusual and vital person.

    I will need to change. Now I shall ask myself, “What would Joyce say?” She will be with us for a long time in this way, and we are fortunate to have had her. I give great thanks for the life of Joyce Sobel.

    Eileen Drath
    Friday Harbor

    Comment by Eileen Drath on February 1, 2018 at 1:14 pm

The comments are closed.

Receive new post updates: Entries (RSS)
Receive followup comments updates: RSS 2.0
%d bloggers like this: