Joyce Motzkin had a gift for nurturing the most frail of children.
She and her husband of 51 years, Ed, spent most of their marriage caring for foster children with special medical needs; more than 300 since the early 1970s.
Joyce knew, intuitively, what each child needed. Whether they were born with devastating birth defects, suffered injuries as the result of physical abuse or had cognitive deficits, she understood what would comfort each child and how to motivate them to exceed the expectations of their doctors.
In recent months, though, it was Joyce's children who provided her with comfort. She was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago and stubbornly survived multiple surgeries, hospital stays and medical treatments. Last November, after doctors had done all they could, Joyce was sent home to receive hospice care. Ed was told his wife wouldn't last the week. But with the same strong will she instilled in her children, Joyce rallied to spend one last holiday season with her family.
"She got to live long enough for her favorite holidays, and that was what was important to all of us," said their son, Cory Motzkin, 28.
Joyce, 70, died Sunday in her husband's arms. She was surrounded by their nine children: Terri, Ed, Kevin, David, Annie, Kristy, Cory, William and Koriena.
A 10 a.m. funeral Mass today at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 1300 N. Greasewood Road, will be followed by interment at Holy Hope Cemetery.
It seems almost inevitable that Joyce and Ed would build a family together. They shared so many similarities and values, and their lives intersected throughout their childhoods. Both came from large families.
Joyce Marie Blackmore was 5 when her family moved from New York to Tucson. Her father had arthritis, and doctors thought the dry climate would do him some good.
Ed Motzkin's family moved to Tucson for a similar reason when he was 3. His father suffered from sever asthma.
Joyce's father owned a little grocery store on Mission Road, where she spent much of her time.
"My dad used to sell cookies and potato chips to the grocery store, and that's the first time we met each other," said Ed, who sometimes accompanied his father on his sales route. "We went to the same grade school for a while, and we started dating in high school."
They wed after graduating.
"We're both Catholic, and I think loving the Scriptures has been a good part of our life. It's kind of how we got started with foster care. We always felt it was a ministry for serving God and people, and that's why we've done it for so many years," Ed said.
"Doctors would tell us the kids were going die and they would come here and somehow she would nurse them back to health. God gave Joyce a talent to make kids better."
The couple's introduction to caring for medically fragile children came after one of their four biological kids was born with serious medical issues.
By the mid-1970s, Joyce had logged hundreds of hours in training, learning to care for children with various medical conditions. Eventually the couple adopted five of their foster kids. Their children range in age from 15 to 50.
Even infants who had no hope of survival found comfort in Joyce's arms.
Loretta Rodger has been a friend of the Motzkins for more than 40 years, and played host to the family and its foster children during summer vacations on her Nebraska farm.
"I don't know how many babies she's had in her home that she's sat in that rocking chair and rocked them into passing. If there is such thing as an angel on Earth, she is it," Rodger said of Joyce.
Joyce and Ed Motzkin created the Robinow Syndrome Foundation in response to a dearth of information about the disorder that affects one of their children. Robinow syndrome is a rare disorder of skeletal development that affects many parts of the body. Go to www.robinow.org for more information.
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