Unsung Heroes: Joyce DeSousa, a Heartwarming Spirit with Boundless Energy

BY JANIE ROSMAN

Joyce DeSousaWhen she turned 80 a few years earlier, Valley Cottage resident Joyce DeSousa took a hot air balloon ride in Arizona. “This was great, and a few of my grandchildren went with me,” she said, laughing at the memory.

DeSousa, 85, has been volunteering with a Shalvah (Hospice-like) visitation program in nursing homes,” Brenda J. Greenberg, director of Volunteer Services at Northern Services Group, a not-for-profit Rockland County organization.

During visits with a terminally-ill patient, “she helped the woman write a memory book, which she presented to the woman’s daughter when she passed,” Greenberg said.

“We had wonderful times together,” DeSousa reflected about her experiences listening to and recording the person’s treasured memories.

For the past four years she has taught reading to a dyslexic woman in one of the day care programs at Northern Metropolitan. “I really enjoy doing this, and we keep it fun,” she said.

A former board member of the Valley Cottage Library, DeSousa didn’t stop after her 1985 retirement from teaching English.

“In addition to giving tours of the Blauvelt House as a docent, Joyce is a mainstay (with Ruth Begany) of our school-based education programs,” Historical Society of Rockland County Executive Director Susan Deeks said. “Children and teachers who grind corn with Joyce as she teaches about Lenape life ways never forget the experience.”

A volunteer with the Society since the mid-1980s, she also taught cooking to children who visit the historic farmhouse during her free time. “Joyce is also the storyteller during our beloved St. Nicholas Day event,” Deeks said.

“Little kids come in and take off one shoe and get something (gold coins) back in their shoes,” DeSousa said of the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas. “That’s where the idea of Santa Claus came from. We try to get the kids to see this as a saintly holiday.”

Prior to retiring, DeSousa cared for her husband, who passed away from ALS. “She’s that kind of wonderful person,” Greenberg said.

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