Friends, community members remember Joyce Little

Published 8:57 am Friday, February 2, 2024

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Many in Oakboro and the surrounding communities have this week been reflecting on the passing of the former mayor Joyce Little.

Little, who died early Monday morning at the age of 81, played many roles in the town, both personally and professionally.

Some people with whom she worked, went to church and lived shared their thoughts on her life.

Decorating Life

For many years, she worked in the office and kept the books for the family business, Wiley Little Drywall of Oakboro, alongside her husband, Wiley.

According to her friend Betty Huneycutt, she was working at the business around the time the two became friends.

“Basically, it’s been the last 20-some years that we have been really close. We did a lot of things together and enjoyed being together,” Huneycutt said.

Huneycutt, whose son Chris is the current mayor of Oakboro, said Little was quite the decorator, adding, “she had beautiful things in her home, and she loved china, dishes. She’s probably got more sets of dishes than anybody I know.”

Little’s house, she noted, was always decorated for the proper season, and she always loved sunflowers.

Along with being the moderator of Oakboro First Baptist Church, singing in the church choir and leading the women’s mission union, Huneycutt said she and Little would decorate tables in the fellowship hall for various events. Usually, she said, they would each buy half of the decorations needed for whatever event took place.

Little, she said, was someone who would “tell you what she thinks. If she thinks something wasn’t quite right, she’ll tell you that…she didn’t hold back.”

When the two would go shopping, Huneycutt said, if the store had a jewelry counter, she would always be able to find Little because she would be there.

“She was always impeccably dressed and had coordinating jewelry to go with every outfit,” Huneycutt said.

Along with decorating, Little was a great cook, known for her pound cakes. She also loved to work with flowers and “always had beautiful flowers and ferns on her porch and around her house.”

Two of her favorite hobbies, Huneycutt said, were “her family and making things in and around the house look beautiful.”

Faith First

Little’s life also included a great deal of faith, according to the current and a former pastor of her church.

Dr. Terrell Watts quoted Psalm 103 which in part reads, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget his benefits.”

“I have, for the last 25 years, considered that Joyce Little is one of God’s benefits for my life,” Watts said.

Little served on the committee which brought Watts to First Baptist Church of Oakboro, and the former pastor said there was an immediate connections between them.

“I liked her common sense, her directness. As far as a church member, no pastor could ask more of any member,” Watts said. “She always would give it to me straight. I often went to her for advice.”

Watts added Little never missed choir practice and was active in Sunday school and worship, saying she loved to sing in the choir.

“She was the hospitality queen,” he said about her planning and organization of the various church dinners.

Watts said he, his wife and their three children visited Little on the Saturday prior to her passing. They sang hymns a cappella. Watts said she sang along and knew all the words.

“She is worthy of any accolades people may give.”

Rev. Jonathan Waits, the current pastor, said Little was incredible.

“She was faithful in a way only few people are,” he said. “She loved her family. She loved her church. She loved her community and was fiercely dedicated to all three.”

Regarding her faith, Waits said Little “knew the end was coming,” but she “was very clear eyed about that…she said, ‘Yes, I’m going, but I’m going to be OK.’ It was this clear vision of a life on the other side of this one because our faith in Christ and what he did on the cross. Because of that, there was never any fear or trepidation…just this hopeful confidence. She knew she was going to be with Jesus, and for all those who believe likewise, we’ll be there with her.”

As the church moderator, who helped lead meetings of the whole church to make decisions. Waits said Little “knew exactly what she was doing and what she wanted to do.” He added Little, in those meetings, “kept things moving in the right direction.”

Waits said Little “will be sorely missed.”

Mayoral Life

The case with many small towns often has people who grew up together often working together in life.

Such was the case of former town administrator Doug Burgess, who worked alongside Little for 18 years.

“She was a true definition of a public servant, always giving to others of her time and energy. It’s impossible to sum up in a few words all that she meant to Oakboro and Stanly County,” Burgess said. “To put it simply, though, she brought out the best in each person she worked with and the people of Oakboro benefited greatly from Mayor Little’s service to the town.”

Burgess and Little grew up on farms next to each other, as well as both attending the same church.

“To say that I will miss her is an understatement,” Burgess said.

Oakboro Fire Chief Rodney Eury said Little “was a wonderful person. She was always kind and encouraging. She was a woman of faith and she loved her church and her fire department.”

“She always asked about my children every time we saw each other,” he added. “I served four years on the Oakboro Town Council and she was always encouraging to me and would give advice when I would ask her questions. She will leave a void in our town…she will be missed dearly.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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