Celebrant thrived on diverse challenges

One of the south's most popular lay celebrants, retired JP Joyce Sproat, was herself movingly farewelled this week.

She passed away at the age of 88 with a full and fascinating life behind her; her later years spent as a lay celebrant of weddings and funerals.

Retiring from business in Otautau into town with her late husband Lindsay, she put her experience as a charter member of the Invercargill Toastmistresses club to good use, becoming a popular celebrant for weddings and funerals.

From 1994 until she retired in 2007 she officiated at 239 weddings and 246 funerals, at venues all over Southland.

It was not such a surprising late career move; Joyce Sproat followed diverse pathways throughout her working life and made a success of all.

A schoolgirl record-holding swimmer, she went on to gain representative honours at a dozen sports, holding office as a secretary, record keeper, time keeper.

For decades she alerted newspapers and radio stations to sports results and draws, her weekend hours on the telephone keeping Western Southland sports to the fore.

Leaving Southland Girls' High School she worked in a solicitor's office in Invercargill before joining the Navy, a Wren involved in signalling.

In April 1947 she married barber Lindsay Sproat and they set up in business, hairdressing and stationery, in western Southland capital Otautau.

Their daughters Diane, Judy and Lesley remember happy years there, both their parents becoming life members of the Otautau golf club, their mother also a nationally accredited referee for basketball, now netball.

Over the years Joyce Sproat did the lot, collected teaspoons, organised Girls Guides, became a member of the National Party, was a Kew Hospital "Pink Lady" when retiring into Invercargill in 1990.

After the death of Lindsay in 1997 Joyce travelled, and widely, visiting the United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam as well as Australia several times.

She moved away from their Edinburgh Cres home to a smaller pad in Alice St and then to a cottage at Peacehaven, maintaining her independence by adjusting the circumstances around her.

She is survived by her daughters Diane Ridley, Te Anau; Judy Buchanan, Winton and Lesley Campbell, Moeraki, their children and grandchildren.

The Southland Times