Joyce Mae Gatz (5/7/1934 – 10/11/2019) was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Claud D. Gallamore and Pauline Mae Gallamore. She grew up in Tulsa where she attended Will Rogers High School and later graduated from Oklahoma A & M (now Oklahoma State University).
She met her future husband, John Winston Gatz, in the youth group at church. While trying to help his friend get a date with her, he managed to steal her heart, and they spent the next 62 years together. They were married in 1956 after graduating from college and spent the early years of their married life in Cincinnati, Ohio, while he was in the Army. They later moved to Dallas, Texas, hoping to start a family. This desire led them down a unique path to adoption: in 1963 they brought home daughter Laurie Lea, followed by Amy Jo in 1966. Baffling and delighting her doctor, Mrs. Gatz then gave birth to Beth Anne in 1970 and Emily Jane in 1973.
The family of six made a happy home in Lilburn, a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. They raised their girls, working hard to send them to a private Christian school, and remaining faithful founding members of Campus Church of Christ. Mrs. Gatz worked in the Business Office of Greater Atlanta Christian School for 25 years – students and faculty have her to thank for every desk and chalkboard purchased during those years, not to mention innumerable supplies. She retired in 2003 to take on her favorite role ever as the adored Mimi to her three grandchildren: Caroline Adair Cartwright, Gabriel Aaron Thompson, and Samuel Evander Thompson. After the passing of her darling John in 2014, she spent the last few years of her life with new friends at Discovery Village in Suwanee.
Joyce was an avid reader of mystery novels, and she loved computer games. She was a gifted seamstress and made much of her own clothing as a young woman, including her pink satin and lace wedding gown, as well as many Easter dresses for her girls. She and John enjoyed scuba diving during their years in Texas, and they spent unforgettable summer vacations camping in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, where she melted more than a few pairs of Keds while cozying up to the campfire. She kept an immaculate house all the while making it feel like a home. She and John cultivated a beautiful and prolific vegetable garden for many years, and she taught her girls the pleasure of eating ripe tomatoes warm from the vine while dripping the juices over the sink. She rarely missed watching her Atlanta Braves play, and she even took up an interest in NASCAR for a number of years at the insistence of her two oldest daughters.
As Mimi, she always had Goldfish crackers, gummy bears, and bite-sized Oreos on hand for her three grandchildren. She never missed their sporting events, plays, or special events, and she even let them teach her a little about technology. Her true gift was care-giving for those she loved, always thinking of small details to bring them pleasure or relief. She cared for both her father and her husband during their last days, exhibiting a quiet strength and an innate ability to soothe and comfort.
Mrs. Gatz bore the loss of her husband and two oldest daughters in recent years with that same quiet strength. Her remaining daughters, Beth and Emily, were with her to the end when she passed peacefully just before midnight in the same hospice facility where her husband had passed nearly five years earlier.
She is survived by her brother, Gary Gallamore and his wife Pamela of Delaware; daughter, Beth Anne Thompson, her husband Van, and sons Gabe and Sam; daughter, Emily Jane Winter, her husband Tony, and their children, Adair Cartwright and Nathan and Morgan Winter, along with many nieces and nephews.
The family will receive visitors on Thursday, October 17, at Campus Church of Christ in Norcross from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. They have planned a private family memorial in the Smoky Mountains, where they all agreed to find their final rest within earshot of Deep Creek.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Mrs. Gatz’s favorite charity, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Online condolences may be left at www.billheadfuneralhome.com.
Arrangements by Bill Head Funeral Homes and Crematory, Lilburn/Tucker Chapel, (770) 564-2726.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
501 St. Jude Place, Memphis TN 38105