PELHAM — If Pelham had an unofficial ambassador, Joyce Mason was it.
“If you moved into Pelham and Joyce was the first person you met, you’d say, ‘This is a town I want to raise my family in,'” said her longtime friend, School Board member Eleanor Burton.
Mason died on Sept. 21 at her home after a long illness. She was 78.
But her friends and colleagues say her impact on the town she loved will be felt for years to come. If a group in town needed a volunteer, chances are they say, Mason was willing to lend a hand
Mason worked as clerk of court at the Pelham Municipal Court until it closed in 1992. Judge J. Albert Lynch, 85, remembers her as a devoted employee.
“She was just fair with people,” said Lynch, who lives in Pelham. “In a small town, kids will go through a transition period. I drove cars when I didn’t have a license. I drank a few beers when I shouldn’t have. She knew the difference between the ones who were bad apples and the ones who weren’t.”
Lynch remembers when a couple of foreign-exchange students from England were arrested for stealing license plates off cars years back. The usual fine was $50. Mason suggested that Lynch make the college students write 1,000-word essays explaining why their actions were wrong.
A year later, one of them wrote a letter to Lynch from England, thanking him for making him think.
“I was lucky to have her,” said Lynch. “You might even call her an assistant judge. She ran the show.”
Mason followed town politics religiously. She and her longtime friend Glennie Edwards would watch town meetings from their homes while talking on the telephone.
“Sometimes we’d call each other seven, eight or nine times a night,” Edwards said. “I’d call her up and say, ‘Joyce, I just wanted to remind you the selectmen’s meeting is on tonight.’ Every year they’d be a new regime, and we’d analyze how they were doing.”
Mason wasn’t one to hold her tongue when she disagreed with a town official’s decision.
“In the later years, Joyce wouldn’t hesitate to speak out when someone would say something that wasn’t right,” said Edwards. “I used to say, ‘Joyce, why don’t you say what’s really on your mind?’ And we’d laugh and laugh.”
She helped put together the book, Reflections: A Pictorial History of Pelham, on the town’s 250th anniversary in 1996. She was a member of the First Congregational Church in Pelham, where she taught Sunday school and served on the Women’s Guild. She was also a Girl Scout leader and a member of the Sherburne Hall Restoration Committee.
Her clothes always were spotless. Even on trips to the grocery store, her outfits were impeccably put together.
Born in Lowell on March 8, 1929, she was the daughter of the late Charles C. and Mildred B. Carkin. She was a devoted wife to her late husband, David, and mother of four and grandmother of 10.
For many years, she served as a supervisor of the town checklist, working with town Moderator Phillip Currier.
“Even during her last couple of years, when her illness was getting to her, she would come to an election and insist on staying the entire day,” said Currier. “I’d threaten to kick her out and say I was going to send her home to rest. She’d say, ‘You’re not my boss.’ She was very dedicated.”
So dedicated, in fact, that Currier said the recent School Deliberative Session was the first Town Meeting he ever remembers her missing.
She was also a police dispatcher for many years. Late last year, Mason wrote a letter to Edwards, thanking her for getting her the dispatcher job in the 1970s.
“Knowing you has made such a difference in my life,” wrote Mason. “Working as a dispatcher changed my life by letting me to know I was capable to do more than I thought I was capable of doing.”