A Life Well-Lived

Joyce (front right) with all of her siblings

Joyce Marie Opdahl was born February 23, 1951 in Mora, Minnesota to parents Mahlon Lorace and Hazel Fern Opdahl. She was the fourth of the couple’s six children, arriving after Ronald, Carol, and Gary and prior to younger brother Steve and baby sister Betty. A sunny, round-faced girl with thick, curly auburn hair reminiscent of the fiery color from which her father’s lifelong nickname, “Red,” was derived, Joyce was the descendant of Norwegian and Dutch ancestors.

The family moved to Gardena, California for about 18 months when Joyce was six, going from there to the San Fernando Valley. Camping, hunting, and the outdoors made an early first impression on Joyce, who competed in trout-fishing contests with her siblings during the family’s many camping trips. The Opdahl brothers and sisters vied to outdo one another in catching the first fish, the biggest fish… and the most. At about age nine, envious of her older brothers’ exploits, she talked them into letting her join them to hunt rabbits. While she hit her target, she only wounded it, and the experience led her to put aside her borrowed rifle for years to come.

Joyce (back) with younger siblings Steve and Betty

Joyce (right) and sister Betty (left).

Joyce’s devotion to family was apparent from a very young age, as was her adventurous spirit. Her sister Carol recalls that Joyce made a solo trip to South Dakota at about age 12 to help a cousin with her babies during a family anniversary party, and that – far from the resentment a pre-teen girl might have been expected to feel – Joyce was thrilled both with the children and the responsibility. However, she had a mischievous streak. Younger sister Betty recalls an “itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie, yellow polka-dot bikini” that Joyce hid, knowing her mother would never allow her to wear it. When, at 16, she went swimming anywhere, she left the house in a sober one-piece, changing into the “scandalous” swimsuit well away from Hazel’s watchful eye. At the time, she was a sophomore at Encino, California’s Birmingham High.

The infamous bikini

Joyce’s senior photo

When Joyce was in her senior year of high school, and her older siblings had gone on to marry or relocate, Red and Hazel moved with their three youngest children to Medford, Oregon. Possibly, Joyce resented leaving Encino, the town in which she’d spent much of her life – in any case, her thirst for adventure and the outdoors only intensified. During one harrowing episode on Oregon’s Rogue River with her Medford boyfriend, Gary Lee Webster, she became trapped underneath their watercraft and nearly drowned, fostering a lifelong fear of rivers and tunnels. However, she was not afraid of open water and she loved to watch storms, which were plentiful in the Pacific Northwest.

Joyce and Gary Lee Webster married when she was 18 – and barely out of high school (she was still a senior when the wedding announcement was published in the local paper). At first, the young couple lived in a single-wide trailer in Eagle Point, Oregon – Gary was a lumberman and heavy equipment operator, and Joyce worked full-time in a grocery store. Chasing a promising job opportunity (and likely fulfilling Joyce’s love of adventure), the Websters relocated to Wahiawa, Oahu in Hawaii. Joyce enrolled in a bookkeeping class at community college, delighted in the sun and surf, and soon became pregnant. Her son, named Gary Lee Webster the 3rd after his father and grandfather, was born in 1971. (Among family, he was often referred to by both his first and middle name to avoid confusion with his uncle Gary, who predeceased Joyce in 2014.)

Joyce at her wedding with Gary Webster

The early marriage lasted only a few years. At 22, Joyce left Hawaii with her baby son in tow. Now a qualified bookkeeper, she initially went to work in Los Angeles, California. As a new mother, the fun-loving Joyce developed a more cautious streak – she would immediately leave any gathering where marijuana was present, fearing that her baby might be taken from her if she were arrested. Her bookkeeping work for a local restaurateur impressed her boss, and he asked her to move to Reno, Nevada to support his establishment there. She agreed and, taking little Gary Lee with her, made the move.

Joyce and newborn Gary Lee

In Reno, in the summer of 1974, Joyce’s Volkswagen “bug” broke down as she was trying to leave for work. Unbeknownst to her, the fellow who would become her life’s leading man had had his eye on the statuesque, then-blonde Joyce for some time. James Randall Weaver, known as “Randy,” hurried out to assist. While his attempts to get the VW started were unsuccessful, Randy wasn’t about to give up. Having succeeded in making Joyce’s acquaintance and in proving his erstwhile gallantry, Randy (a former U.S. Army crew chief and the groundskeeper at the building in front of Joyce’s at the time) returned to her apartment later with a bottle of wine… and a little of the once-dreaded marijuana. These they shared with Joyce’s roommates, and a romance soon bloomed.

Randy, Joyce and Gary Lee

Randy, Gary Lee and Joyce

The couple had been together for about four months, living separately, when Randy’s employment in Reno came to an end and with it, the cheap rent he had enjoyed. He asked Joyce if she would like to accompany him first to Portola, California, and then on what would become a rather nomadic early life together – something that doubtlessly appealed to Joyce’s easygoing, adventure-loving nature.

Joyce and Gary Lee with her Grandmother Madelia

Their first move was south from Portola to Delleckar, California, and then from Delleckar to Grangeville, Idaho. (A friend ended up towing their belongings to Grangeville for them, as the 1958 Pontiac they were driving kept overheating.) In Grangeville, Joyce and Randy posted up in a tiny, mostly-weatherproof lean-to, while four-year-old Gary Lee slept in the car. At the lean-to, Joyce (always proficient in the kitchen) became so adept at cooking over a campfire that she could actually make a cake. The elk-hunting camp tent that was their next destination seemed luxurious in comparison.

Washington was their next destination. They went from Soap Lake to Ephrata to George – the last of which mountain-loving Joyce and Randy deemed too flat and dreary to stay for any longer than necessary. After a brief stint with Joyce’s younger brother Steve in Philomath, Oregon, they moved to Albany, California, where Randy took night classes in machining and worked at Rogers Structural Steel. After learning that increasing the number of credits he was taking could garner him Veterans Administration benefits, Randy continued to pursue his education, a decision that had the couple living more comfortably than they had while doing odd jobs. From Albany, they moved to Lebanon, Oregon, where Randy got his first machining job.

Christmas 1980

The day the couple were married is infamous in family history. Having left the task of finding an officiant until the day before the wedding, Randy hastily arranged one in nearby Sweet Home. At five in the morning on February 3, 1978, Joyce and Randy were awakened by a rowdy party of friends intent on a day-of bachelor party. While the whiskey flowed, Joyce and Randy lost track of time – and in the rush to the altar, had no time to change clothes. Rather than the blue dress she’d selected, Joyce was married in her overalls, and Randy in jeans and a T-shirt. The photographer was seven-year-old Gary Lee.

Randy graduated in 1980, now proficient in both machining and tool and die manufacturing. While he sought work in California, Joyce coached her son’s Boys and Girls Club soccer team. To this day, Gary Lee remembers that while most teams that age were somewhat ragtag, “chasing the ball around,” Joyce kept her kids organized and assigned to their specific positions. The result was that in the two years she coached, the team was undefeated.

Randy turned down a position with Boeing, wanting to pursue more close-tolerance work, but ended up working on aircraft nonetheless – military aircraft. He moved Joyce and Gary Lee, whom he formally adopted in 1980, down to California to join him. Joyce jokingly dubbed the empty, dry rural area “No Hope,” but – despite having no running water, electricity, or sewage – she cooked up a storm in the small kitchen of their borrowed trailer, and continued to care for her son. Gary Lee clearly recalls looking for scorpions to play with because nothing else seemed to live out there.

Joyce cooking in the trailer at “No Hope”

Joyce laughing at a surprise party for her older brother Gary

By 1983, Randy was chafing at the idea that his work was in the service of warfare (and perhaps at the dismal “No Hope”), and decided to shift his career path to developing instruments for medical research. The family moved to Goleta, California, initially cohabiting with Joyce’s older sister Carol and younger brother Steve. It was a time of both fond memories and funny mishaps, including Joyce spending all of one day making a lemon meringue pie for Steve’s birthday – a well-meaning attempt that unfortunately flopped due to his distaste for lemon.

Joyce and Randy made a pact to stay in the area for no longer than five years, and they stuck to it – living both in Goleta proper and then in nearby El Capitan, camping full-time in a 30-foot trailer. The couple worked hard – Joyce at a musical instrument shop where she once met Kenny Loggins – but a dangerous incident at Randy’s place of employ led to his leaving that position. As Joyce was still employed in California, Randy headed north to look for work, and stayed with his in-laws, Red and Hazel, in Medford, Oregon. After he landed a job with Tucker Sno-Cat, Joyce and Gary joined him. They purchased a house on Thomas Road, where they would spend the next six years.

Joyce pushing Gary Lee in a wagon
at Red & Hazels, with Snoopy looking on

Joyce and Gary Lee in the late 80s

Randy was with Tucker for a year before shifting to helicopters, a field in which he worked for an intermittent total of 13 years. At one time, he had his own shop. Joyce, who was working full-time, also loved to entertain, famously hosting large and boisterous Super Bowl parties of more than 30 people. These gatherings were made easier when she and Randy found their dream home – a five-bedroom, two-bath, ranch-style house with a sweeping meadow behind it, often traversed by deer and other animals.

Joyce with the cows

It was a good thing, Randy recalls, that they made their offer on the house when they did – not only because there were many competing offers, but because Joyce had her heart absolutely set on it. Over the years they would undertake several projects to spruce up the house: wiring the garage, remodeling the kitchen until it was the envy of several of Joyce’s siblings, and expanding the front deck to wrap around the house. For a time, they kept calves in the back field.

Joyce’s aversion to hunting, established when she was very young, took some time to work through. For the first three or four years, rather than taking up a rifle herself, she kept the camp: introducing a Dutch dish called “mouse” (or muisje) that became a hunting tradition, and beating the brush to flush out deer and other game. Finally, she was ready to give it a go herself. Randy recalls her very first hunt: he heard a shot from the trail above Joyce and hurried down to inquire. Her aim could scarcely have been more perfect – she had hit her deer directly in the throat and it had fallen facing downhill. There was hardly any need to let its blood drain further before it was dressed.

Joyce on one of many successful hunting trips

From that first triumph, Joyce was hooked. Always a hands-on and independent woman who wanted to learn and do things herself, hunting appealed to both her sense of self-sufficiency and her love of camping. Long before the recent “homesteading” trend, she was virtually a pioneer woman – picking berries, growing her own produce, and canning in addition to hunting. She learned to snowshoe, and took up gold-panning with Randy in Northern California and Nevada. When Randy bought and fixed up Red’s 1942 Jeep, Joyce loved to drive it or to just hang on for dear life when the couple went rock-crawling.

Joyce jeepin’

Joyce holding Ashley

Joyce holding Nikki

She remained devoted to her family. Younger sister Betty and her husband, Jerry Wagar, had welcomed two daughters, Ashley and Nikki. As might have been expected, Joyce was overjoyed – she had wanted more children of her own, but had needed a hysterectomy in her early adulthood due to a faulty IUD. When she received her portion of the resulting class-action settlement, she went and bought her nieces a computer. Joyce had great fun with the girls – often in her beloved outdoors. She took them camping and horseback riding, and once was part of the family’s established “Cousin’s Weekend” at Lake Shasta, partying with the teens and young adults aboard a houseboat and enjoying zooming around in a jet boat. Ashley and Nikki learned to drive in the 1942 Jeep that Joyce loved.

Son Gary Lee was married to Toni Lima in 1993 and moved with his new wife to Japan – the couple had met in college and shared an affinity for the culture. Although no doubt pained by the distance, Joyce was tremendously supportive of the project abroad, which saw the young couple teaching English in somewhat obscure Ogawamachi, Saitama-ken. On May 11, 1996, Joyce was thrilled to welcome her first grandson, Kobel, who was born abroad in Japan.

Joyce and Randy with the Weaverlis at the Lake of the Woods annual family reunion campout

Thanksgiving 1994

Holidays among the extended Opdahl clan were big occasions, and despite the unfortunate meringue incident, Joyce’s pies became a legendary staple. The six siblings took turns hosting Thanksgiving at their various homes in Oregon, California, and Arizona, ceremoniously presenting the “Travelling Turkeys” – a set of salt and pepper shakers shaped like the birds – to each year’s host. For several years, the family also reunited to camp – occasions full of laughter, competition, and games.

After a brief stint with Jackson County Vector Control upon first moving to Medford, Joyce worked with Moss Adams, an accounting and wealth management consultancy, where she met her friend Shirley Botts. She would go on to work part-time directly with Shirley when the latter established her own practice. Letters circulated among family show that tax season was always challenging, but sunny, tolerant Joyce rarely complained.

Joyce and Randy in Anchorage, AK

With her two grandchildren, Kobel & Halin, shortly after Halin’s birth

By that time, she had a second grandson: Halin, born November 14, 1997. And to Joyce’s great delight, her son, daughter-in-law, and grandsons were back in the U.S., and no further than nearby Ashland, Oregon, where Gary was finishing college. She happily baby-sat the boys, even keeping them for entire weekends on occasion. It was tough on Joyce when the little family relocated to Northern California, where Gary pursued his career in information technology not far from Silicon Valley – but she was overjoyed when in 2000 they moved back to Portland, Oregon, a mere four-and-a-half hours to the north of Medford. Although Gary and Toni’s marriage ended in 2002, Joyce retained a close relationship both with her grandsons and with Toni. Joyce welcomed future daughter-in-law Liz Batchelder in 2006 with open arms; the two soon formed a close bond.

By the early 2000s, Joyce’s love of the ’42 Jeep had blossomed into a passion for “quadding” on smaller all-terrain vehicles. She and Randy spent many happy weekends exploring the woods on their quads, and the vehicles became a camping staple that allowed them to cover much more ground than they could on foot. On long hunting trips, Joyce often went for long, solo quad rides – logging over 23,000 miles by the time of her passing. When relaxing at the trailer she was rarely without a book, plowing through romances, murder mysteries, spy novels, and science fiction/fantasy, the latter of which Liz very much enjoyed trading with her.

Joyce enjoying a book with daughter-in-law Liz and son, Gary Lee at the annual Lake of the Woods family reunion

Joyce with friends on a cruise to Mazatlan in 2002

Joyce’s travels were not limited to her camping and hunting expeditions. In 2002, she took a Carnival cruise to Mazatlan, Mexico with four girlfriends, and at age 49, had a wonderful trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, again with friends. Photos from these trips show Joyce with burros and parrots in Mazatlan, and taking in all the historic sites in New Orleans (while also enjoying the local cuisine and lots of cocktails, or course). Late in life, Joyce took up new hobbies, including beadwork jewelry-making and handmade greeting cards, interests that she shared with her sister Carol. Meanwhile, her family expanded once again: her great-grandson, Huxsen Weaverli, was born on February 1, 2020. Unfortunately, due to that year’s COVID-19 pandemic, she was not able to meet the infant – but her pride and love of family were clearly evident.

The giving-spirited Joyce was also an active volunteer. Throughout her adult life she would serve as a Big Sister; as treasurer for the Soroptimist Society; and doing research, in conjunction with Hearts with a Mission, for the Maslow Project. She found additional outlets to celebrate and support her passion for hunting through the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Oregon Hunter’s Association.

In December 2020, after hosting a joyful if smaller-than-usual Thanksgiving celebration at her beloved Pioneer Road home due to the pandemic, Joyce enjoyed her last quad ride with Randy. While previous winter excursions had been wet, slushy, or muddy (and often all three), the weather on December 29 was clear and beautiful, the conditions perfect.

Joyce and Izzy on a quad ride

Joyce, who struggled with migraines her entire adult life, was admitted to Medford’s Asante hospital on Sunday, January 3 with an intracranial hemorrhage and clotting issues. She had reported a severe headache that felt “different” from the ones she had powered through for years. In keeping with her wishes, the family opted for the least possible medical intervention, and – as she had lived – Joyce passed away with very little “fuss” on Saturday, January 9, 2021, at 4:40 in the afternoon. Her husband Randy and son Gary were holding her hands.

Joyce Marie Weaver

2/23/51 – 1/9/21