Joyce Mary Varzally


Joyce Mary Varzally, affectionately known as Jojo, passed away suddenly, but without suffering, on July 17, 2021, surrounded by her loving family. Joyce was super-smart, funny, spirited, warm, independent, strong-willed, fashionable, and above all, generous. Born in Philadelphia on October 19, 1948, Joyce grew up in a row house on Manayunk Avenue in the Wissahickon neighborhood with her parents and her older sister, who was her best friend and best jitterbug partner, Cynthia Wilson (Craig). Joyce graduated from Roxborough High School where she aced all her classes; she had a keen analytical mind and gift for words. Joyce met her husband, Michael Varzally, who thought she was beautiful and thoughtful and smarter than he was, while working in the offices of the Gulf Oil Company. After a courtship that included walks down the one hundred steps of the Wissahickon Creek, the two married on February 6, 1971, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year. Joyce was a compassionate, energetic, creative mother to her two daughters, Heather Palmer (Scott) and Allison (John Romley); she was always ready to listen, support, and guide. She was their first and favorite teacher, making certain they had challenging books to read and problems to solve, volunteering at and leading school activities in her gentle way, and reminding them to enjoy the process of learning rather than expect perfection. It is no coincidence that Heather and Allison both became professional teachers.

Joyce’s love for her three grandsons, Luke, Ian, and Zeke was boundless. She appreciated them for all their special talents and quirks, always playing, listening, asking the best questions, and anticipating something they needed before they even needed it.  After Michael’s retirement, Joyce helped him find a new path. They played cards, completed puzzles, cooked dinner, and read books about the history of baseball together. Jojo tended to her garden where she grew beautiful, brightly colored flowers.

          Joyce held her faith fully and deeply and absolutely. She attended St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Whitemarsh for over thirty years, always sitting in the 7th pew from the front on the left side of the church. She shared her time and resources with programs that helped the hungry.  Those wishing to honor her life can make a donation to Caring for Friends (