Joyce C. Barnes


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Joyce Fern Colburn Barnes was born in Woodland, California at the start of the Great Depression. As a result, soon after Joyce arrived to this world her parents, Fern and George Colburn moved to Grand Junction, CO to help with George’s parents’ bakery and later, their boarding house. It was at this boarding house that adventurous Joyce crawled into a laundry chute, head first. She imagined a wild ride down the metal tube into the basement, but instead got stuck and had to be pulled out by a border. What did she learn? Adventures are fun... but sometimes they get you into a bit of trouble. It was this same unquenchable curiosity and fierce independence that Joyce followed as the cornerstones to her way of living. Instead of focusing on the barriers in front of her, Joyce focused on the adventures that were created by looking beyond them. 


One of her first adventures was marrying John Phillips Barnes in 1951. A few years later, Joyce became a music teacher. After observing Joyce’s keen ability to help students with emotional and developmental challenges, Joyce's principal suggested she work more with these students, and thus came the next adventure: Championing programs and curriculum for students with special needs. To add to her already extensive education of a Bachelors in Music Education, Joyce also earned a Masters in education and eventually a Doctorate of Public Education… And thus, “Mrs. Barnes” eventually became “Dr. Barnes” and the Director of Special Education and Pupil Services in the Granite School District, lobbying for bills to give children with disabilities access to the essential services and a quality education. Joyce’s colleagues recall her jousts with legislators, and successful tactic of promising to give legislators the phone numbers of parents of children with special needs so they could call and explain why special education funding was being cut directly to the people those cuts would affect the most.  She rarely lost a battle and always won the war. Joyce eventually retired from her career in education, and went on to become a respected mediator, often working with young people in juvenile detention centers. 


Her drive for learning and self growth was a trait she passed on to both of her daughters Ariel and Barb. Ariel taught science and math for 25 years, and Barb is a mediator/organizational facilitator. Barb’s daughter Autumn also received incredible support from her grandmother in everything she pursued, from education to travel, to her career as a radio journalist. 


Joyce didn’t only make an impact in her personal life and at work, but also in her community. She was a cornerstone of the League of Women Voters, serving as one of the first presidents, and worked tirelessly to make sure people were informed of current issues, and the importance of voting. After being encouraged by her spiritual mentors Shauna Adix and Ruth Bradshaw, Joyce became a founders of the Salt Lake Crones too, and that group went on to birth the International Order of Crones, an organization supporting elder women in embracing their inherent spirituality and wisdom, finding sisterhood and becoming peacemakers in their communities. 


Joyce and her husband John loved the arts, and attended countless ballet, opera, plays and jazz performances both in Utah and around the world on their many travels together. 


Joyce made sure to include her daughters and granddaughter Autumn in her love for travel as well, bringing them all together each spring  for a week of “girl time” in Pacific Grove, CA. She loved walking on the beach arm in arm with Autumn, admiring jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium with Ariel and enjoying philosophical conversations with Barb on the beach.


On Saturday September 19th, Joyce passed away suddenly, and now her spirit, love, kindness, curiosity and generosity lies within us all. We hope you will find some time to share your stories of Joyce and how she touched your life in the “Share Your Story” tab on this site.

Joyce Fern Colburn Barnes

Daugher, Sister, Cousin, Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Friend and Advocate

Teacher, Administrator of Special Education Granite School District, Mediator, World Traveler