Above: Tom and Janet Joyce at the Memorial Day Parade in 2014.
Tom Joyce made it his mission to bring coffee to his wife every day during her many years as teacher and director of the Barbara Tufts Co-op Nursery. He was devoted to Janet, which meant building his life away from his beloved Pittsburgh so he could be with the girl from East Greenwich who he met while stationed at Quonset with the Marines in the early 1960s.
Tom died Monday, Nov. 27, at the age of 82 (see his obituary HERE). He spent 48 years as a police officer in East Greenwich – an extraordinary stretch in this era of 25- or 30-year police careers.
“For a guy to stay at one department for 48 years, that’s pretty rare,” said Police Chief Stephen Brown. “He was a great guy. He always spoke his mind. He was really fair. And he loved that position of juvenile officer.”
“Tom will be best remembered as the town’s longtime juvenile officer where he worked tirelessly to create programs and an atmosphere of support for our youth,” the EGPD Facebook page posted.
Tom Joyce was the town’s first juvenile officer. According to Bob Houghtaling, director of the East Greenwich Drug Program, who worked closely with Joyce for nearly 30 years, Tom helped establish the juvenile system and the Juvenile Hearing Board in East Greenwich. The JHB allows young people who get in trouble to stay in town rather than face the state family court. It’s a system still in place today, where youths are held accountable but able to make things right, usually through community service.
“Tom was doing community policing before the term even came about,” Houghtaling said. “He helped advance policing to the next level by embracing community service supports. He worked with the drug program. He worked with the schools.”
Tom was a regular at the Teen Center. “He volunteered every Friday night for decades. That was a pretty big commitment,” recalled Houghtaling. And he helped out at Safety Town, a program for children about to enter kindergarten.
John Carter, who succeeded Tom as the town’s juvenile officer, said Tom was instrumental in getting him interested in working with and advocating for youths. “He wanted to get them on a good track,” said Carter. “He knew it was the younger generation who was going to take over.”
“Tom was the most eccentric, wonderful man ever,” said Steve Beadle (EGHS Class of 1972), who worked as a police officer in East Greenwich until 1994. “He was the ultimate professional. He wanted things done correctly. His Marine Corps background made him disciplined and professional.”
Tom was Beadle’s first sergeant and a mentor. “Tom was always there. He always had our backs,” said Beadle, who now lives in Baltimore. “It was the way he interacted with people. He was really good with people…. What a spectacular man!”
Besides work and family – Janet, his daughters Jennifer, Pam, and Joanne, and his in-laws Ed and Mildred, for whom he helped care for many years – Tom had another big love: football. He was devoted to the Pittsburgh Steelers, getting to at least one home game every year. His basement was covered with Steelers paraphernalia, which he happily toured visitors through. But all football was good football to Tom. In the 1960s, Tom played on the East Greenwich Townies football team, as quarterback and punter. “He was a very good punter,” said Bruce Mastracchio, a teammate. And he would routinely attend local high school football games.
Tom was only in the Marines for a few years, but once a Marine, always a Marine, and the lessons learned there in terms of his appearance were hardwired in. There was, of course, Tom’s famous head of hair, high and tight – the Marine way – in the 1960s. Then in later decades a wave of reddish-blond hair that swooped over the top of his head like a crown.
“I hope when I reach my 60s my hair looks as good,” joked former EGPD Chief Dave Desjarlais. “When I took over, Tom had been on the job longer than I had been alive.” Desjarlais was 35 when he became chief. “It was a pleasure to work with the man.”
Echoing others, Desjarlais said, “Tom had his way of doing things. He wanted his autonomy working with juveniles…. He lived in town and he knew the kids. He knew what would work.
I think he did a fantastic job.”
He was also “fiercely loyal,” Desjarlais said.
“He just enjoyed the department,” said Chief Brown. “If he could have stayed another 48 years he would have.”
But Tom has left the building, joining his beloved Janet, who died in 2020. Semper fi and Godspeed Tom.
I am wery frustrated as his friend t believe that we all need to know if he were sick and the reason he died! It is not an invasion of privacy to share this! Especially in this case because Tom was in great shape! A beautiful story but leaving all of us empty! Signed Steven L, Kaye Esq.
Thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute to Tom Joyce! I feel so blessed to have known both Tom and Janet.
They represented “The Best of East Greenwich.” There is no doubt in my mind that Tom is now reunited with the love of his life, Janet. They will be spending their first Christmas together in heaven.
Condolences to the Joyce family. Two wonderful people, your Mother and Father.
May God rest your souls and keep you at Peace.
Tom and Janet were amazing, loving people. I had the great pleasure of getting to know them through my time at the farmer’s market, and while my daughter went to the preschool. They would visit me every week at farmers market, without fail. One of my best memories, was going to their home to pick them up for a double date- Tom showed me his football treasures before we headed out for pizza. They were truly the sweetest, most wonderful people.
As a Juvenile Board member, Monday mornings at the station with Tom and Bob and school administrators reviewing weekend activity were always a sketch. Piss-Poor Parenting, triple-P. Vintage Tom. He had the habit of getting an inch and a half away from your nose when he’s talking. And those trips to Pittsburgh with a foot of snow on the ground, hotel for the weekend, for a high school game! The man was cray cray. Always a straight-shooter, you never had to wonder what was on his mind. He was a piece of work, and he was good for the town. Mel Bautista, Lynchburg, VA
One or the other of this Joyce couple touched so many of us in our community. Miss Janet through her involvement with social services and the pre-school, and Officer Joyce, for his work with town youth, via the police force and otherwise. How fortunate we were to interact with or observe such an amazingly committed (though imperfect) couple…for a huge expanse of years…the likes of whom we will.be unlikely to see here again.
Thank you Elizabeth….This is a wonderful tribute.
I did not know Tom well, but I knew he was a police officer when I was a teenager in the mid 1960’s. There was a ton of drunk driving back then. Not only the teenagers, but also a huge number of young sailers, many from the south, who bought fast cars and drove them recklessly around town and then crashed them or had them repossessed. Police at the time couldn’t arrest everyone, and the social taboos on driving and drinking were not yet established.
Tom caught me one night speeding up Bleachery Hill. He took me to the police station, threatened me with Jail and then drove me home to tell my parents what I did.
I was much more careful with my driving after that; when I saw Tom around Tom, he’d give me that knowing glance that said, “I’m watching you!” A good guy.
A life well-lived!
Enjoyed working with Tom and Janet when they were town part of the town staff. After he and Janet retired, I would see them walking on Moosehorn, Middle or Carrs Pond almost every day on my way to work, and I’d look forward to stopping sometimes to catch up on EG events. Wonderful people who cared deeply about their community and left a lasting legacy.
EG Town Councilor