By LOHR McKINSTRY and KIM SMITH DEDAM, Press-Republican
---- — BLOOMINGDALE — Longtime St. Armand Town Supervisor Joyce Morency died early Monday morning.
She was the longest-serving member of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, having first taken office in 1982.
She was the first female chair of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, heading the board from 1994 to 1995.
Morency had been fighting cancer for several years and succumbed at 4:30 a.m. Monday.
She was 77 years old.
Fortune-Keough Funeral Home in Saranac Lake is in charge of arrangements. Tentatively, calling hours are 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Fortune Funeral Home in Saranac Lake. The funeral is at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Saranac lake, with burial to follow in Brookside Cemetery in St. Armand.
Highly respected as a veteran supervisor, Morency had been one of the most staunch fiscal conservatives on Essex County’s board.
She handily won re-election to a four-year term as supervisor in 2009 and served repeated terms as chair of the County Finance Committee, a post she relinquished in 2010 due to her illness.
Her death was announced with heavy hearts by county officials Monday morning.
Beyond her long career as a lawmaker, Morency was a respected businesswoman, a mother and a grandmother.
She was also chairwoman of the Essex County Republican Committee for eight years, stepping down in 2006. She served on the St. Armand Town Council from 1978 to 1981.
Current GOP Chairman Ronald Jackson worked with Morency both in county government, when he was the Town of Essex supervisor, and in organizing the Republican Party.
“It’s a big, big loss for the county,” Jackson said Monday morning, recalling the many years he worked with Morency in county board chambers.
“Joyce was always fiscally conservative — it was a tough time to convince her to spend money unless it was absolutely necessary.
“And she loved the Republican Party. She was always there to help with anything. Any time there were tough issues, she was the first to call and offer support and words of encouragement. She was chairwoman of the committee for about 10 years.
“She is going to be missed by everyone in the county,” Jackson said.
“She collected elephants — porcelain ones, stuffed ones, pictures of elephants,” he said about one of her hobbies.
Sam Grimon is a town councilman and deputy supervisor in St. Armand.
“There’s so much to say,” he reflected on the loss. “Joyce was such a caring person. It didn’t matter if you were listed among prominent people or not, she treated everyone equally with dignity and respect. Joyce was well-loved. She would go to bat for anyone.”
The Town Council will continue to manage town business, he said, and, in time, will take steps to address the now vacant supervisor’s seat.
Essex County Board of Supervisor’s Chairman Randy Douglas said it was a sad day in Essex County.
“That’s for sure. She is going to be dearly missed. She was a wealth of knowledge and a financial expert, a tremendous leader and a tremendous help to me. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”
Long-time colleague and friend Joseph Provoncha, who is Essex County clerk, said no one could calculate the amount of good work Morency has done in more than 30 years in office.
“It’s a terrible loss to her town and to our county,” he said of the supervisor’s passing.
Provoncha recalled her quick intellect, steady humor and the special place she held for her daughters and granddaughters.
“She and I were talking many, many Halloweens ago. She came up and said, ‘I’ve got to run over to Potsdam. My granddaughter Serenity is having a little girl costume party, and I’ve got a witch’s costume in the car — and you don’t need to comment on that!”
Provoncha chuckled at the memory.
“She was a good, good person. I will miss her.”
“On behalf of the Saranac Lake community, I extend sincere condolences and sorrow to the family of Joyce Morency,” Saranac Lake Village Mayor Clyde Rabideau said in an official statement Monday.
“Joyce was one of the most dedicated local public officials I ever met. Countless times, I would stop in at her Town Hall and she would be the first person to greet me through her office door. She was totally dedicated to her township and its residents, spending tremendously more hours in the Town Hall than any two other town supervisors put together.
“Joyce was a fearless and unrelenting advocate of St. Armand and its residents and will be dearly missed by all.”
From the Town of Moriah, Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava said he and Morency had been good friends for a long time.
“Joyce and I go back a long way. She was the senior member of the Board of Supervisors. She came on in 1982; I came on in 1985. She was the true definition of a public servant. She was ultra-conservative when it came to spending. Her constituents in St. Armand and Essex County are going to miss Joyce.”
Scozzafava said Morency was dedicated to her job as public servant.
“She was a hard-working individual. She was very professional. We had our disagreements, and afterward she would say, ‘Tommy, we can disagree, but at the end of the day we’re still friends.’ She will be missed.”
After winning another term back in 1985, Morency told news reporters she was proud to be the “first lady” supervisor in St. Armand.
She acknowledged even at the get-go she enjoyed “being first” as she was chosen the first woman vice chair of the county board that year.
Mrs. Morency is survived by daughter Lisa Davis and her husband, Dan, of Potsdam, and their two children, Jason and Serenity; and by her younger daughter, Beth Ann Schaefer and her husband, Steve, of Texas, and their daughter, Sierra.
Morency ran Woodruff Lumber and Hardware in Bloomingdale, just off Route 3, from 1970 to 1990 with her husband, Joseph “Leo” Morency, who died on April 30, 1990. She sold the business to Ollie Burgess, who renamed it Specialty Wood Products.
Mrs. Morency died at her daughter’s home in Potsdam, where she’d been in hospice care.
Email Kim Smith Dedam: firstname.lastname@example.org