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Vale Joyce Wilson.

I was particularly saddened to hear of the death of Joyce Wilson in May this year. She had been a teacher, an employer, a colleague and a friend to me for over 45 years.

Joyce Wilson was a founding member of the Health Information Management Association of Australia (HIMAA). She undertook the six months training course for medical record personnel conducted by Sara McKinney (from the USA) in 1955. After the first full time three-year course started at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, in 1956, Joyce lectured to students in medical terminology, disease classification and coding using the Standard Nomenclature of Diseases and Operations (SNDO). She was a strong believer in the need to code accurately and encouraged her students to enjoy the process. As students, at the beginning we were not so sure about 'enjoying coding' but by the time we had completed the course many of us felt the same as 'Miss Wilson'. In those days she was 'Miss Wilson' and remained so to me for many years. She was highly respected by all and encouraged her students and young graduates to believe in their chosen profession. As a student I had a most enjoyable six weeks with Joyce as my supervisor at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children (RAHC) Sydney and was pleased to be offered a position as her assistant at the end of my training. I subsequently worked with her at RAHC for three years. Joyce was a member of the External Education Committee for the NSW Training School for Medical Record Librarians for many years and extremely active in the professional association. A highlight of her involvement was as a member of the organising committee of the Sixth International Congress on Medical Records held in Sydney in 1972. Joyce was in charge of the social arrangements and did a grand job organising the cocktail parties and banquet. She also hosted a number of international visitors, showing them Sydney and entertaining them before and after the Congress.

Joyce remained at RAHC, her beloved 'Children's Hospital', until her retirement. From this time we met infrequently as I was still working, but we were able talk on the telephone and meet when possible, more so in recent years. Joyce was a unique individual who enjoyed life and I feel blessed to have been able to call her my friend.

I would like to share with you some excerpts from her nephew's eulogy, which he presented at her funeral:

I'd like to touch upon her twilight years. It was my privilege to know Joyce well in her last 15 years, when she often reflected back on her life. My grandfather Thomas once said to Mum, 'There is not much fun in getting old, dear; nothing to look forward to, only memories' Well, Joycie's memories were quite revealing. Here are some which come to mind.

Joyce would never own up to her real age. It was only on Tuesday when Flora O'Dea, a friend for more that 60 years, discovered Joyce's true age from the death notice in the SMH [Sydney Morning Herald]. For decades, including that one year they travelled together, Joyce always told Flora that she was two years younger than Flora. She was actually eight years older! It was only when Joyce turned 95 and was feted by the hostel management with a birthday cake that she seemed to decide that she could now not only admit her real age but also brag about it! After all, as she frequently told us, no one else in the family has yet to reach such an advanced age as she!

When she turned 97 almost three weeks ago, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. 'Champagne, of course!' was her reply. She always said it was her favourite drink, that it went with everything from soup to nuts. So champagne she got.

Some time ago I asked Joyce why she had never married. Her immediate answer was that she had never found anyone good enough except for one man, and he wasn't available. But she assured us that, although she may have been a Miss, she hadn't missed much. She added that she had had a good life and done what she wanted to do. Joycie said she had never wanted to have children of her own. Too much pain! She couldn't understand why women, after having had one child, would back up to have another. But she loved her nieces and nephews dearly, as well as their children, and repeatedly told us that her family was the most important thing in her life. She loved us all in her own way and lit up when we visited or called her.

Joyce dressed well, was rather the grand dame, and was confident about taste. She did enjoy shopping, and the only place for her to shop was David Jones. Two years ago, on one of the last occasions I took her shopping for clothes, I wheeled her in to the women's section at David Jones in Chatswood. Fronting up to the nearest desk, Joyce summoned the sales clerk with the query, 'How do you get service around here?' She then proceeded to describe what sort of dress she wanted. Within minutes several staff were scurrying to fetch selections for her. Once presented with the dresses, Joyce refused to go to a dressing room. She stood up from her wheelchair, removed the clothes she was wearing, and standing rather unsteadily in her slip in the middle of David Jones, proceeded to try on the three dresses which had caught her fancy. Having made her choice, she dressed again and then demanded a senior's discount.

Joyce was self-sufficient and enjoyed her own company. She had a few select friends of long-standing and didn't seek to make new friends. She kept most people at arm's length and let only a few people get close. If she was unhappy with a situation or person, she wouldn't hesitate to let you know. She was not always the most diplomatic of people, but she was a firm and loyal friend to those she loved.

We are all going to miss Joycie. Each of us will cherish our memories of her.

Professor Phyllis J. Watson AM

Long time colleague and friend
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Author:Watson, Phyllis J.
Publication:Health Information Management Journal
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Oct 1, 2010
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