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September 19, 2003 - Image 86

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-09-19

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would become her life's work while a
student at Southfield High School.
For a social action project, her class
visited Coldwater State Home in
Coldwater, Mich. It was an institu-
tion, she remembers, that was like
nothing she had ever encountered.
"It was a most-horrifying experi-
ence," Keller says of the huge cold
rooms where people rocked and
knocked about. "It was my first expo-
sure to people with disabilities."
The experiences had a profound
impact on her, she says, and led her to
focus her studies at U-M on mental
Adventurous Spirit
Keller says the learning is not one way, retardation.
Though Keller was driven and ded-
and that she has gains much insight
from the JARC community. While she icated to her work, says former special
education classmate and sorority sister
has won several awards, including the
Jacobs, she was
also a fun-loving,
League's Women
great bridge-play-
of Achievement
ing woman. And
Award in 1998,
very adventurous.
she says the real
Jacobs says that
people of achieve-
Keller once drew
ment are those
up a list of things
who have to over-
she would do if
come hurdles
she learned she
every day.
was dying. The
"Every morn-
list included para-
ing, these people,
chuting out of an
who are minimal-
airplane, flying an
ized and dis-
airplane and learn-
counted, get up
ing how to tap
knowing that
everything they
Keller smiles
do is somewhat of
when reminded of
a fight. That's the
the list. She says
strength it takes
when she turned
to live with a dis-
40, she asked her-
ability or to have
self, "Why wait?"
a child with a dis-
She eventually
ability," says
experienced every-
Keller, who
thing on her list,
knows the value
including getting
of a supportive
Joyce Keller with her husband,
married. Twelve
upbringing because
Michael Walch, at their
years ago, she mar-
of her own parents.
home on Watkins Lake.
ried Michael Walch,
In Southfield, her
the retired
parents raised their
Southfield deputy chief of police. He's
two daughters the way people raised
now a hospice social worker at
boys, Keller says. "When the car got
Odyssey Hospice in Southfield and,
stuck, we got out and pushed."
Keller says, "a most incredible support
Her parents instilled in their
daughters that they could do anything
While Keller sees important issues
and were expected to do everything.
ahead, like caring for JARC's aging
"We didn't have role limitation,"
population, her board trusts that if
says Keller, whose family belonged to
anyone can move forward, it's Keller.
Adat Shalom Synagogue and
"Here's an example of how she
Congregation Shaarey Zedek.
works," says board member Norman
In high school, Joyce was president
Wachler. "We would have an annual
of the Greater Detroit Council of
meeting with the board and Joyce
B'nai B'rith Girls, and her sister
would say, 'Here's the situation. We
Deborah Keller Cohen, a University
of Michigan professor, was BBG inter- now have six homes and 200 people
on a waiting list. We need to find
national vice president.
space for these people.' Then someone
Keller was first introduced to what

full-time job."
She's been living with the same
group of women for the last 15 years,
he says, adding that they play bingo,
go to dances, to the West Bloomfield
Community Fame Games and bowl
"JARC gave Julie a really good
quality of life she wouldn't have had,"
Boesky says. "I attribute that to Joyce's
leadership. She's the prime mover who
put it together, plus her active, sup-
portive board."


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