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Elizabeth Joyce Sundberg (Joyce), 97, passed peacefully from this life to the next in her home on 10/10/2023 surrounded by her family.
Joyce was born three months prematurely after her mother attended a smalltown carnival. Her head was small enough to fit in a teacup. Her grandmother wrapped her in a blanket and put her in a shoebox in the oven as a makeshift incubator.
When Joyce was five years old, she got scarlet fever. Her mother moved her from Sedalia to Dodge City to be near family who got her through a health scare once again.
Joyce learned to read early by reading her grandmother’s magazines. She loved reading all her life. In western Kansas she grew up with eleven cousins. She never felt like an only child. She was also close to both sets of grandparents. One set of grandparents lived in the city and the other in the country. She said it was growing up having the best of both worlds. Her grandmother made cigars and her grandfather ran the barber shop.
Joyce went to catholic school through high school. Her best friend was her cousin Vivian. Joyce and Vivian went often to the dance hall where the service men gathered to dance. In 1944 Hilmer Sundberg (Whitey) was stationed on that military base in Hutchinson, Kansas. He and his buddy Murphy struck up a friendship with a man named Red who drove a taxi. Red told Whitey and Murph he had some beautiful daughters that he and his buddy needed to meet. Red invited them both to dinner. Red told his wife Gladys that they were having dinner guests, so she made a beautiful chicken dinner for their eleven children and their niece Joyce. Red drove up to the house with Whitey and Murphy. Whitey was about to learn it was every young man’s dream to have a first date with Joyce and every young man’s nightmare to have to take Aunt Gladys along for dancing at the Brown Wheel. Once Whitey had Joyce on the dance floor away from the family he said, “your hair is so soft.” Joyce replied, “I know.” Whitey waited several minutes and said, “you have beautiful eyes.” Joyce replied, “I know.” Whitey stopped dancing and said, “Is there anything you don’t know?” Whitey left Joyce on the dance floor and that is when Joyce said she knew, “he was the one for her.”
Whitey came back to the table Joyce was sitting at and asked if he could spend as much of the next four days with her (and Aunt Gladys the chaperone) as possible before he shipped out to California. On their fourth date Whitey and Joyce were engaged. Whitey wanted to wait to get married until he came back from the war. Whitey shipped out to California where he picked out an engagement ring and sent it to Joyce in the mail. Joyce found an ID bracelet and sent it to Whitey in the mail. It was engraved with the saying,
“Forever and four days.”
One of the first things Whitey’s crew did to the B-24 liberator before flying was to remove all the bullet proof armor so the plane could maneuver better and fly faster. Because of the modifications, there were wires exposed in the cockpit and one day Whitey raised his hand and electricity arced from his arm. Fortunately, the contact was with the bracelet he was wearing. There is a notch to this day in the bracelet that saved his life just above the saying, “forever and four days”.
Whitey and Joyce were married when he returned from his second and last tour. Jobs were hard to find for the service men returning from the war, so Joyces’ father found a job for Whitey with Sheffield Steele in California. Joyce worked for the government as a stenographer. In a few years, Joyce’s father started Anchor Steele. Whitey and his brother Don came back to Kansas City to Join the company.
Joyce was once the president of the local garden club. Joyce, who admittedly did not know the difference between a bush and a weed was talked in to competing for the office. The current president of the club told her she would raise a beautiful flower and let her present it to the judges. Her friend gave her the flower but neglected to tell her anything about it. The judges asked Joyce to let them know how she cultivated such an unusual plant. She thought for a minute and said, “it’s a secret.” Winning answer.
A commercial airline flight of Joyce’s mother was hijacked to Cuba, and she was taken from the plane to face Castro. Shortly after this, Joyce’s father decided to get a pilot license and an airplane of his own for their trips. Joyce and her mother took the maiden voyage to Mississippi to her fathers’ hometown. Halfway through the trip, Joyce’s father got lost. He had Joyce make a mayday rescue call that guided them back on track and landed them safely. None of this kept them from getting back on the plane again.
Joyce turned tragedy into triumph when she started a business helping women recover from breast cancer. She grew the business, retired, and transferred the business to a relative who runs it to this day.
Whitey and Joyce found their greatest joy in their family. They attended many family sporting events and celebrations over the years. Joyce built a giant playroom in their home where all the children looked forward to visiting to fill it with play, laughter, and memories. Joyce decorated the walls with the artwork of her children.
Joyce is survived by her two children, Stephany and Kurt. five grandchildren Michael, Matthew, Kaitlin, Heather, and Stephen and seven great grandchildren Stella, Michael, Luke, Emaline, Hudson, William, and Olivia.
We cherish the love she freely gave us. her spirit will live on in our hearts, and her legacy will continue to inspire us.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations made to Cure of Ars Catholic Church (Music Department).
God grant His everlasting love, joy, and peace to all who knew and loved Joyce.
I am home in Heaven, dear ones;
Oh, so happy and so bright!
There is perfect joy and beauty In this everlasting light.
All the pain and grief is over, every restless tossing passed;
I am now at peace forever, Safely home in Heaven at last.
Did you wonder I so calmly trod the valley of the shade?
Oh! but Jesus’ love illumined every dark and fearful glade.
And He came Himself to meet me In that way so hard to tread;
And with Jesus’ arm to lean on, Could I have one doubt or dread?
Then you must not grieve so sorely, For I love you dearly still
Try to look beyond earth’s shadows, Pray to trust our Father’s Will.
There is work still waiting for you, So you must not idly stand;
Do it now, while life remaineth, You shall rest in Jesus’ land.
When that work is all completed, He will gently call you Home;
Oh, the rapture of that meeting,
Oh, the joy to see you come!