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  • Dorothy Patterson

A tribute to Joyce Compton Harrington: A woman marked by a joyful attitude and a servant’s heart

Monday evening, January 29, 2024, my dear mentor and friend Joyce Harrington was drawn into the loving arms of our Saviour Jesus Christ as He escorted her into the heavenly court. She enjoyed a reunion with family and friends and met many who had been waiting for her arrival to express their gratitude for her witness responsible for their salvation and residency in heaven and with others whose lives she blessed along the way with her loving care and genuine concern. But—most of all she was praising her Lord and placing crowns that she brought to place at His feet. For decades she had prepared for this moment of greatest joy with the Lord Jesus who saved her and who guided and protected her through all the challenges of this sin-filled world with its difficulties and heartaches.


My first meeting with Joyce Harrington happened during the late 1970s when my husband Paige and I were students at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and when he was pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in New Orleans. I served for a time as the associational director for Young Women’s Auxiliary and in that capacity planned some special events for young women from area churches. Joyce crossed my path because her oldest daughter Rhonda was an active participant in the activities. Joyce was stunning in her appearance—always carefully put together on the outside but even more awesome on the inside. She was well named because the “joy of the Lord” poured out in everything to which she put her hand and with every word she spoke.


Joyce and I met again when her daughter Rhonda attended Baylor University. As one of their most beautiful and charming coeds, Rhonda attracted the eye of my brother. Soon she and Chuck were dating seriously, and at the end of their degree program they married in First Baptist Church, New Orleans. I enjoyed reconnecting with Joyce on different occasions during the Baylor courtship. However, the next special memory was during the wedding week when Joyce hosted our entire family (Paige and I with our two young children, my three sisters, and my parents, as well as her family—quite a crew). The tables in her New Orleans home were perfectly appointed, and we experienced a delightful welcome; but the most amazing thing was to find Joyce busy in the kitchen as I was introduced to another talent in her wheelhouse—she was a gourmet cook. Over the succeeding years I was blessed and nourished by much food from her kitchen—everything from gumbo to fruitcake! Yet this first experience still reigns supreme! She prepared from scratch the most delicious quiche I have had to this day! And anyone who spends much time in the kitchen knows that this recipe is not easy with its delicate piecrust and custard filling and with the pressure of just the right amount of cooking time. Joyce seamlessly prepared and baked quiche by quiche while having conversation and checking on the rest of the menu!


Dorcas, who was restored to life with Peter’s God-anointed words, is described as a “woman . . full of good works and charitable deeds which she did” (Acts 9:36-43). That phrase certainly describes Joyce Harrington. She was active in her local church; she ministered to widows in the church; she was especially attentive to her Sunday School Class; she was at the heart of the women’s ministries; she volunteered at mission points in the city and at New Orleans Seminary; she did baking even in her retirement apartment to share with those grieving and celebrating; she served as chauffeur for women who were no longer driving. My own mother was beneficiary to these good works since they lived in the same retirement center. Joyce was her best friend and always available to encourage and help her! That would seem the highest point of my personal gratitude to Joyce—but there is more!


Joyce reared her daughter Rhonda so that she was prepared to be the perfect helper and partner for my only brother! That brought Joyce into our extended family to join her wonderful daughter. Together they brought double joy to family events and double encouragement and love to all the Kelleys. My brother Chuck was the primary caretaker for my parents Doris and Charles Kelley through their senior years until their deaths, but Rhonda watched over every detail of their lives from medical to the practical day-to-day living. One of the biggest crowns Joyce will place at the feet of the blessed Jesus is the one representing her daughter Rhonda!


Thank you, Joyce, for your impact on me personally and on our entire family. Thank you for your example as a faithful disciple of Jesus. Thank you for your good works and charitable deeds, especially those that specifically touched me and my family. Thank you for the legacy you leave to women like me, whom you have loved and mentored and encouraged for decades.



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