Roswell icon Joyce Brown Chapman died with great grace in her home on May 11, 2013.
Many people knew her as the charismatic proprietor of Chappie’s Hallmark Hacienda in downtown Roswell. Joyce opened her store in 1974 and named it after her husband Chappie Chapman, in the hope that he would give up his dream of becoming the next “Marlboro Man” and take an interest in business. This never quite happened and instead Joyce happily worked for the next 27 years towards her goal of making Chappie’s the most stunning store in Roswell. She traveled to Dallas, Kansas City, and San Francisco as she searched for unique and beautiful things to please her customers. She would have denied it if you called her an artist, but she made her store, her home and her big garden of desert plants beautiful. In any group, pretty Joyce stood out in her ankle-length gathered skirts and blouses in dazzling colors, always laden with an array of silver and turquoise jewelry.
Joyce was fun and funny and her quick wit stayed with her until the very end. She knew her own mind, and usually found no impediment to having things her own way. She was smart, a captivating conversationalist, and a master of the “arrow to target” sharp retort (very amusing, unless you found yourself her objective!). She had enormous determination. When her daughter was growing up, Joyce frequently told her, “You can be anything you want to be.” Joyce was a feminist long before anyone ever used that word.
Her English ancestors were farmers and small-business owners who eventually settled along the Leaf River in Jones County, Miss., in 1800. Joyce Elizabeth Brown was born July 31, 1919, in Laurel Miss. She grew up in Birmingham, Ala., in the midst of her mother’s large Southern family. She attended Howard College in Gadsden, Ala. In 1942, she married Chappie Chapman (a Yankee!), who was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi during World War II. During the post-war years, Joyce and Chappie loved to take the “Hummingbird” train to New Orleans. On Canal Street in the French Quarter, after café au lait and beignets at Café du Monde, shopping at Godchaux’s, and dinner at Antoine’s, they would spend the evening dancing at the Blue Room in the Roosevelt Hotel.
When their daughter Elizabeth was three, they decided to leave Mississippi, and moved to Roswell, a town and a state they had never laid eyes on. Joyce always said that moving to Roswell was the best thing that ever happened to her, and she never entertained for a moment the thought of living anywhere else.
Joyce was an engaged member of her community and applied her great drive and energy to many projects. She was a founding merchant of the MainStreet Roswell Association, helping bring Roswell’s downtown back to life. She worked with the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, spearheaded the creation of the Holiday Electric Light Parade and helped start the Roswell Girls Club. Joyce kicked off the Cancer Survivor’s 2011 “Walk for Hope” with her grandson’s wife Cheryl, also a cancer survivor. She was a founding member of the infamous “Coffee Club,” whose members have been getting together on Friday mornings for 60 years.
Joyce loved to travel and her adventures included cruising the Eastern Seaboard and Seattle to Alaska, rafting the Usumacinta River in Mexico and Guatemala and going on a paddleboat cruise down the Mississippi River with her mother Florence and granddaughter Nina. Joyce and Chappie enjoyed camping and bottle hunting in Aspen and other old Colorado mining towns. Later in life, she and her best friend Jean Glover traveled the world — England, Spain, the Caribbean, Singapore, Greece, Thailand, Belize, and Australia and more. Jean and Joyce visited New York often to see the new plays on Broadway and walk the interesting old neighborhoods. She enjoyed Elder Hostel junkets to Acoma and Chaco Canyon, studied the Crypto Jews in Santa Fe and Pacific Marine Mammals in Oregon. Joyce and her sweetheart Bob Desbien enjoyed many Senior Circle trips around the country. She loved good food, and often her tales of traveling were about the fabulous meals she had enjoyed. She never stopped talking about the amazing lamb dish she ate in Greece.
In the last five years of her life, Joyce was confronted with grave assaults on her physical health and mental agility. Yet, she refused to be daunted, never once giving in to self-pity. She loved her life and adored her family. She never lost her ability to make us laugh. Every morning she delighted in the bevy of birds that flocked to her feeder. She watched the sky in awe as the clouds changed color and shape. Joyce often sat on her patio with Bob to watch the sunset. In the last days of her life, she was still noticing our precious world. “Look, look!,” she would insist. “See how beautiful it is!”
Her mother Florence Denham Brown Barnett, stepfather Lee Barnett, brother Newton Gershom Brown, and her much-loved husband of 45 years Clyde Raymond (Chappie) Chapman preceded her in death.
Survivors include her daughter Elizabeth Chapman, of Santa Fe; granddaughter Nina Feliz Gonzales. of Taos; grandson Amadeo Tomas Gonzales and his wife Cheryl Lee Gonzales. of Eagle River, Alaska; her sister Martha Barnett Nobles and husband Jerry Nobles, of Biloxi; the father and step-mother of her grandchildren Tom Gonzales and Alana Markle; and her deeply cherished partner and sweetheart Bob Desbien, who made her very happy in the last romance of her life.
The family offers its gratitude to all of the people of Roswell who liked, loved, cared for, befriended, collaborated with, invited, tolerated, conspired with, offered worthy opposition, worked with, smiled with, laughed with and made Roswell the home that Joyce loved so much. We are especially grateful to the staff at VistaCare and all of her caregivers, who helped us far beyond the call of duty.
A celebration of Joyce’s life will be held Sunday, June 2, 2013, from 4 to 6 p.m., in her home, on the northwest corner of Montana Avenue and 11th Street. In lieu of flowers or food, please help us honor Joyce by making a donation to one of the following organizations (or choose your favorite): “Walk for Hope” Chaves County Cancer Fund, P.O. Box 193, Roswell, NM 88202; Roswell Boys & Girls Club, 201 S. Garden Ave., Roswell NM 88203; S.O.Y. Mariachi, 1120 S. Grand Ave., Roswell, NM 88203, www.soymariachi.com/SoyMariachi.com/Donate.html