Monday, January 26, 2009

Aunt Joy

Mattie Joy Campbell Moore, 2 August 1914 – 24 December 2008

Last week I received a letter from my Cousin Joan on the death of her mother, Mattie Joy Campbell Moore – my Aunt Joy. We Moore cousins have known for some time that this would not be too far off, as Aunt Joy was 94 years old and getting progressively weaker. But this did not make it easier for us to hear the news.

When my family was going through difficult times, Aunt Joy and Uncle Howard took me into their home, gave me stability, and helped to raise me – providing not only the physical necessities but also a positive influence on essential aspects of character formation. And Aunt Joy was actually responsible for my choice of profession.

I don’t know what inspired her to do it, but somewhere she got the idea of taking me (14 years old at the time) and her 10-year-old grandson Allen, who was staying with us at the time, to see Sergey Bondarchuk’s 1967 movie version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The movie was in Russian with subtitles, about seven hours long and divided into two parts shown a week apart, and it had long battle sequences and intellectual conversations. Allen and I were absolutely entranced by it. We spoke of little else during the week in between the two installments. Would Pierre and Natasha get together? What would happen to Prince Andrey? (Obviously, we had not read the book and did not know the ending.) Soon after this I did read the book, and four years later I went off to study Russian at Georgetown, where I met my husband; and a few years after that I became a translator. Thank you, Aunt Joy.

Aunt Joy was married to my Uncle Howard Moore, my mother’s oldest brother. Uncle Howard was known among local music circles as a highly talented maker of violins (even though he was technically an amateur, as it was not his main profession), and he and Aunt Joy would take me to old-time fiddling festivals and meetings of the Southern California Old-Time Fiddlers’ Association, where they served as officers. That left its mark on me, too – I have an awesome collection of fiddling music from around the world.

Some of the best times I remember with Aunt Joy involved making our favorite dessert, “Boozy Fruit Salad” (fruit, whipped cream, coconut, and a liberal splashing of Amaretto). From her I learned one of the most enjoyable treatments for a really bad cold – a hot toddy.

Aunt Joy was a petite woman, but she could be intimidating and ferocious. She could also laugh uproariously at anything and everything, including herself. She taught me good manners, self-reliance, a little bit of humility, and frugal and industrious habits (or tried to, at any rate). I admit at times I must have seemed a hopeless case. But I couldn’t help but be influenced by her philosophy of life: be strong and don’t let life get you down. This helped her rise to the top professional ranks during years she worked for the telephone company. She was one of those people who was meant to lead.


  1. At that time there were not any social service agencies. People took care of relatives and perhaps others because it was the "right" thing to do. I found that in my research of my own family, if someone needed a home my greatgrandmother would take them in. Probably the others would too, I just have not hear ab out it, yet.

  2. Aunt Joy sounds like she was a true treasure!

  3. Claudia and Tipper,

    Thank you for your comments. You are right, she really was a treasure; I just hope I can even have half her gumption!

  4. A hot toddy- I remember that from my grandmother. I think it burned the germs out. Your aunt Joy sounds like she was a lovely person. I'm sorry for your family's loss.

  5. Thank you, Colleen. I can definitely remember the "burning" part, but it seemed to do the job!

  6. What a lovely tribute to a special person. One thing that I have found in my own research to my family is that at one time, people were truly raised by a "village" with extended family nearby. When people got older, they helped each other out. Very different from today where we are all like little "islands"! I am sorry for you loss but happy to hear that you had an opportunity to learn so much from her!

  7. Thank you, Andrea. As much as I miss her, I can still conjure up some of Aunt Joy's funnier comments in my mind and they still make me laugh.