Joyce Levy was so passionate about singing that she insisted -- despite her parents' concerns -- that she attend the finest schools for performing arts.
On Monday, Feb. 20, Mrs. Levy, 86, died at the skilled nursing facility at Lions Gate Assisted Living Facility in Voorhees. Although her memory failed in the later stages of Alzheimer's disease, she never lost her connection to music, said her son, Simon.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Elkins Park, Mrs. Levy left the suburbs to attend the Curtis Institute of Music, where she graduated in 1950. In 1951, she attended the Juilliard School in New York, leaving to get married.
"She was so talented," Simon Levy said. "I just loved to see my mom perform."
Before graduating, Joyce Molish fell in love with and married a South Jersey builder, Sidney Levy. She told him that she wanted a piano more than a ring. He bought her a baby grand that she played every day. She sang at her own wedding and many family events that followed, her son said.
In addition to two sons, the couple had a daughter, Geraldine, who died at age 3, Simon Levy said. A neighbor at the time, Kit Martin, said her friendship with Mrs. Levy began after she offered to help care for Geraldine, who was sickly. The friendship evolved into a lifelong bond, celebrating Jewish and Christian holidays together.
About 20 years ago, Martin said, Mrs. Levy visited the Martins in Florida and asked to go to midnight Mass at a Catholic church. She fit in so quickly, Martin recalled, that she led the congregation in song.
"Times were always so happy with Joyce," Martin said, describing the long black hair, dark eyes, and wide smile that would light up the room when Mrs. Levy entered. "She was so beautiful."
Her biggest accomplishment was graduating from Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, with a degree in music and drama, said her son. She had wanted to return to college to finish what she started, he said.
At the time, in the 1970s, she was caring for her family, including the dog, and singing and performing in theater productions under the name Joyce Allen.
She stressed that everyone needed to pick up after themselves, posting a sign in the kitchen that read: "The maid no longer lives here."
Mrs. Levy started training as an opera mezzo-soprano. She later pursued musical comedies at various venues, including Wilmington, Hershey, Pa., the Camden County Music Circus, and Atlantic City.
After graduating, she wanted to teach music to children, her son said. She created a program and found grant money to support musical shows she performed at elementary schools.
"She came up with these crazy ideas that were perfect for the kids," Simon Levy said. "She would rehearse every day."
In more recent years, Mrs. Levy continued to sing for other residents at Lions Gate, her son said.
In addition to her son, survivors include son Seth and three grandchildren.
Services are private.
On Thursday, Feb. 23, the family will sit shivah at the Haddonfield home of Simon Levy and his wife, Dever.
Condolences to the family may be sent to email@example.com or Platt Memorial Chapels Inc., 2001 Haddonfield-Berlin Rd., Cherry Hill, N.J. 08003.