In Her Words: Joy's Story

Joys Story

In Her Words
Candid profiles of strength told by the women of Northbridge

Throughout the month of March we have collaborated to celebrate Women’s History Month and the rich history of the amazing women living in our communities. Their candid stories are brimming over with love, happiness, passion, family values and the markings of individuals who have truly lived well and loved life.

Joy’s Story (Resident of Avita of Needham)


What is your name and where were you born?
My name is Joy Leary and I was born in Norwich, Connecticut on December 8, 1929.

What are the names of your parents and brothers and sisters?
My parents were Josephine & Leonard Somerville and I was an only child. I did have several cousins that I grew close to so I never felt like an only child.

Did you have any nicknames?
My Italian Grandmother chose the name Joya, meaning Jewel in Italian, for me but my parents shortened it to Joy. The only nickname I had was one that my Uncle gave me, Joybells. I always felt like I had to live up to my name and not be serious but love life and people!

What kinds of things did your family do together when you were young?
My family would often get together with our large extended family at my uncle’s farm. We were all very close and I have fond memories of wonderful family parties and celebrations. I feel very blessed to have such a close family of cousins, aunts & uncles.

What did you love to do with your friends?
I spent a lot of time with childhood friends playing games outside like Jump Rope and Hopscothch. We were involved in school sports and I also took Tap Dance Lessons where I was able to preform in the recital. I loved imitating a chorus line with other dancers. I still love to dance!

What schools did you attend? What were your favorite subjects?
Once I graduated High School I went on to attend Katherine Gibbs in Boston, while attending Katherine Gibbs I lived with my Grandmother in Boston. I was inquisitive and curious and after graduating continued my education taking several evening classes in various subjects. I had a thirst for knowledge and there was nothing I didn’t enjoy learning. I especially loved English and found writing a great means to express myself!

If married, what is/was your husbands name? How did he propose?
I met my husband, Michael Leary, while living in Manhattan, N.Y. A mutual friend brought Mike to a party at my apartment. He was a very charming Irish man who, immediately after meeting her, said “Watch out I am going to marry you!” I can’t remember any formal proposal, after dating for a while, we just decided to get married!

What are your children’s names?
I have two lovely daughters, Tracy and Leslie. They were always precious and outgoing. I am very proud that they grew up to be successful and have wonderful families.

Where have you lived?
I have lived in Connecticut and Manhattan, New York.

Have you had jobs? Who did you work for and what did you do?
As a young woman, I worked for a radio station where I had my own talk show called Homemakers Exchange, I created the show myself! It was a forum for women to call in to exchange ideas for homemaking and recipes. I also worked for McCann Erickson, an advertising agency whose clients included the Coca-Cola Company. Each desk had to display a bottle of Coke and it was served whenever clients came into the office.

What are your hidden talents?
My hidden talent is writing, which I enjoy. I also still love to dance!

What did you do to get through the difficult times in your life?
I believed in never feeling sorry for myself. Using prayer, a positive outlook and my nature to be happy got me through any difficulties that came my way.

Do you have holiday traditions? What do you do for the holidays?
I grew up with two different cultures in my family background, Italian and English, this made for very interesting customs and ways to celebrate the holidays. Mostly, I remember the great Italian cooking with homemade pastas and other delicacies. Now I celebrate the holidays with my children and grandchildren, making our own traditions.

To learn more about the wonderful way of life at Avita of Needham, click here.