A gathering of friends and family to celebrate the life of Joy Blanton will be held from 2:00-4:00 PM (come and go) on Saturday, March 11, 2023 at Brew Unto Others (119 South Main Street, Lamar, Colorado).
She was more than a teacher.
Joy Christina (Polhemus) Blanton was born May 7, 1937, in Lamar, Colorado. Her mother, Alvarietta (Gilliam) Polhemus, was a homemaker and her father, Edgar C. Polhemus, was an apiarist.
In her 1979 teacher of the year application Joy wrote, “My dad was an apiarist, but I told friends he was a beekeeper. I did this primarily because the word apiarist usually sent people to the dictionary.” With her brothers away in the service, young Joy helped her dad with the bees. She learned to move 600 pounds of honey on a cart that he had re-invented for his work. In helping, she learned about these creatures that her father loved. When the Rotary and Lions Club called for him to give a luncheon speech, he accepted, but only if his daughter could do it. So, she did.
The young Joy also learned piano and clarinet, accompanied vocal and instrumental groups throughout the community, and played the organ and piano at church. She worked on the yearbook staff and student council, and was named to the National Honor Society.
She was extraordinarily talented at drawing, painting, and ceramics -- activities she enjoyed throughout her life. Chances are, if you're reading this, you have a plate or dish (or three) Joy hand-painted with her signature flowers.
Joy is rightly remembered as a teacher, but before that she worked as a local “stringer” for The Pueblo Chieftain. Interest in her community made her an excellent reporter and she said the job gave her some of the greatest experiences of her life -- and gave her children lots of Polaroid photo ops. Those 3x3 black and white prints that accompanied her stories are still cherished and spark memories about being with Mom while she worked -- whether that was visiting behind the scenes at the circus or promoting the summer reading program.
Smart, curious, and creative, Joy could have done anything. When she started at Parkview School, Joy took what she learned about news, writing, and newspapers with her and, long before other programs were available, she developed a system to use the newspaper as a teaching aid in her classroom.
She called her students "her kids" and they called her "neat." She loved helping develop an awareness of the world around them and felt preparing young people for their futures was the most sacred of all endeavors.
Here are some other neat things about Joy:
She was a fashion trailblazer. Joy was the first woman at her school to wear pantsuits in the classroom, a big deal in the 1970s. She purchased the smart outfits at The Lassie -- a beloved treasure on Main Street that she first visited as a child with her mother and would later visit with her own daughters and granddaughters.
She was a sharpshooter. Her University of Denver ROTC unit won national honors in the 1957 National Rifle Association's intercollegiate women's championship, and that landed her on the pages of Sports Illustrated. A year earlier, Joy had the distinction of being the first woman in the Rocky Mountain area to enter the 166-man Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps program and was the only girl in class that fall.
She wasn't a bragger. Her children didn't learn about those honors, or any of her many, many other college honors -- including being named to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities -- until later in life, and they rightly continue to feel like slackers by comparison.
She was a giver. Joy created a classroom atmosphere where every student felt comfortable and encouraged. She not only cared about how well they did at Parkview, but also about how their lives were away from school. Joy had a quiet way of reaching out, caring and making a difference. She was someone who wrote personal notes, frequently recommending essay contests and books to her former students, and sharing articles of interest with friends and loved ones.
She was dedicated to her community. Joy belonged to the Methodist Church, the Chamber of Commerce, the Order of Eastern Star, the Lamar Education Association, and was a charter member of the Friends of the Library. She worked decades for the Democratic Party and more recently enjoyed educating travelers about the Santa Fe Trail, Bent's Old Fort, and Camp Amache as a volunteer at the Lamar Welcome Center.
She was dedicated to her family. Joy's true joys were her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There was nothing she would rather do than spend time with them and would cancel plans in a hot minute if it meant she could be with the kids.
When Joy was born, bringing a daughter into a family with four boys, the story goes, “Mother looked at Dad and all of those grinning boys and said, ‘she is such a joy to everyone.’” That's how Joy got her name, and how she stayed. A joy. And as we have serenaded her many times over the last year with one of her favorite songs, we're comforted by knowing we've got Joy Joy Joy down in our hearts to stay.
Joy is survived by her son David Blanton (wife Kim), daughter Dana Blanton Di Iorio (husband Nicholas), six grandchildren (Melissa Blanton Jackson, Jonathan Blanton, Whitney Blanton George, Aaron Widener, Riley Widener, and Darcy Widener Burge), and several great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by daughter Muriel Ann Rebecca Widener, former husband David Jerome Blanton, and her four older brothers, David, Edgar (“Bud”), Reed, and Frank Polhemus.