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Joyce Paynter, P.E.I. veteran, remembered for spreading message of peace

Joyce Paynter holds a photograph of herself as she looked when she served in the Canadian Womens Army Corps.
Joyce Paynter holds a photograph of herself when she served in the Canadian Women's Army Corps. - Brian McInnis

A Second World War veteran, community volunteer, and hard-working mother


For some, Joyce Paynter won’t just be remembered as the celebrated war veteran that she was.

For some, she’ll also be remembered as a loving and hard-working mother.

“She was a super mom,” her son Gary said, tearing up.

Joyce died on July 30, 2019, at Whisperwood Villa in Charlottetown, at 93 years old. Throughout her life she was well-recognized for her extensive community involvement.

She grew up in Leicester, England. In 1942, she met Arthur, a Canadian soldier, who was posted in her hometown during the Second World War.

They got married the next year, but he was sent to fight in Italy a month later. When she turned 18, she was accepted into the 43rd Company of the Canadian Women’s Auxiliary Corps.

When the war ended in 1945, the war bride shipped across the Atlantic to see her new home for the first time – French River, P.E.I.

Gary was her first-born of four children. His mother would do everything around their family farm, he said.

“She worked her fingers to the bone.”

During harvest season, she’d prepare large meals for the entire family plus the hired workers, and she wouldn’t hesitate to jump on the tractor right after. If the water pumps lost power during winter-time, she’d be right beside Gary, helping him haul buckets, he said.

“Cattle seemed to drink more water when the power went out.”

She washed and packed chicken eggs to trade for groceries, and she’d help animals give birth to their young. Even when she developed asthma because of the farm work, she didn’t stop.

“(She was) the person up every morning to light the woodstove,” Gary said. “To warm the house before the rest got up. And the last one to put a stick in it at night.”

Wise words:

Gary Paynter says his mother taught him and his siblings to think through their issues and apply whatever wisdom they could. This may be why they didn’t fight with each other much, he said.
When she spoke at schools about her war experience, she would use the opportunity to spread a similar message.
“Her message wasn’t war, it was peace,” Gary said. 

The family later moved to Charlottetown because of Arthur’s health. He dealt with PTSD after the war, but he was the family anchor, Gary said.

The couple volunteered at an organization for people with physical and mental challenges. When Arthur died in 1970, his war bride leaned deeper into her community involvement.

Joyce played an active role in many organizations throughout her later life. She spoke at many schools across the Island, sharing her war experience and her message of peace.

She was a decorated member of The Royal Canadian Legion and instituted a number of firsts for ex-service women, like earning them the right to parade back to the branch following Remembrance Day ceremonies. In 2002, she received the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation Medal for her contributions to Island veterans and her own sacrifices as one. 

Gary now lives in Stanhope and is retired. His sister, Sandra Gauthier, stayed by Joyce’s bedside to help her as her health deteriorated, up until last month when Joyce died.

“(My sister) deserves a gold star.”

When his father died, Gary took on many family responsibilities, such as settling the farm estate. But his mother was always there beside him for guidance and support, just like when they hauled water buckets for the cattle.

“I would never replace my father,” he said. “But together, with her, I’d try to spread her word.”

The funeral was held on Aug. 3, and she was buried in Geddie Memorial Cemetery in Springbrook.

Community committments:

- Past president of the Women's Auxiliary for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind
- Assistant director of Local 19 of the Prince Edward Island Government Retirees
- Founding member of Big Brothers on P.E.I. (Now Big Brothers, Big Sisters)
- First female honorary president of Branch No. 1 in Charlottetown and the P.E.I. Provincial Command

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