Joyce Pajala Hershberger was a compassionate educator

Joyce Pajala Hershberger, 72, died peacefully on March 14 at Hospice House, Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. Joyce was born in Ashland, Wisconsin, on July 25, 1946, daughter of the late Edward and Beatrice Pajala.

Joyce was a 1964 graduate of Ondossagon High School. She received her bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Disabilities from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1968, her Master’s degree from the College of Racine in 1974. Joyce was employed by the Racine Unified School District from 1969-2001. She was the district’s first teacher of students with behavioral disabilities (Horlick HS) and devoted her entire career to mentoring teachers and advocating for students with exceptional education needs. In the 1990’s Joyce studied for her license in Educational Supervision and Leadership (UW-Milwaukee) and ended her career in RUSD as an administrator in exceptional education. In retirement, Joyce was employed by the National Teacher Education Center (NTEC) and supervised student teachers pursuing a degree in exceptional education.

Joyce was an avid reader and life long learner: Chinese language, Mahjong, cooking across cultures, weaving, flower arranging, etc. These interests were reflected in her 30+ year connection in her Book Club and as a member of Adventures in Lifelong Learning (ALL-UW Parkside). Joyce worked to make the world a better place: treasurer of Racine’s NOW (National Organization for Women), HOPES Center volunteer, reviver of the Gilmore Middle School PTA, Racine Democratic Party, and Racine Education Association. With Jerry, Joyce was a sports spectator: the Milwaukee Bucks and the Green Bay Packers. She enjoyed the Packers’ preseason games the most where players were “trying” to make the team. Joyce was a longtime member of Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church serving as president of the board of trustees, on almost every committee, and welcoming visitors and new members on a weekly basis.

As a citizen of the world, Joyce traveled every state in the USA and many corners of the globe. She enjoyed sharing these adventures with her husband, children and in later years her grandchildren. Open-minded and caring, Joyce and Jerry opened their home to foreign exchange students and international employees of Johnson Wax. Joyce believed in the inherent worth and dignity of every person and worked in all corners of her life for justice for all. She will be remembered for her compassion, tenacity and spunky spirit.

Family was most important to Joyce; they gave and received love and added new adventures, challenges, and learnings into her life. On July 5, 1969, Joyce married Jerold “Jerry” Hershberger at Messiah Lutheran Church in Washburn, Wisconsin. They moved to Racine and began their careers and family life. Joyce will be dearly missed by her devoted husband of almost 50 years Jerry, her daughter Jill Hershberger and granddaughter Neenah Hershberger of Racine; her son Dr. Jason Hershberger (Katerina Lanfranco) and grandchildren Ajax and Zachary Hershberger and Luka and Emilia Kotur of Brooklyn, New York; siblings Stanley (Wendy) Pajala, Sandra (Duane) Raspotnik, all of Bayfield County, Dennis (Laurayne) Nicoliasen of Wausau; sister-in-law Mary Hershberger of Valley Cottage, New York; nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends including special friend Ruth Bradford-Johnson. In addition to her parents, Joyce was also preceded in death by her brother Garland Pajala.

Celebrations of Joyce Hershberger’s life will take place on Sunday April 7 at Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church, 625 College Avenue with visitation 2-3:30 PM before the memorial service at 3:30 PM. After the service, join family and friends at Preservation Hall, 740 Lake Avenue for food and fellowship. In lieu of flowers, memorials to the Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church (OBUUC) Endowment Fund are suggested.