Joyce Elaine Keleher

Oct 25, 1931 - Jan 25, 2014


 Joyce Elaine Keleher, 82, of Sacramento CA, 

Passed Saturday January 25th, 2014

She was born to the late Elmer and Elsie Schmiecher, Oct. 25,1931 in Cook County Chicago Illinois. Joyce graduated from Loyolla Academy High School in 1948. She continued onto Loyola University Medical School. Joyce had supported herself through school by working at the original Stouffer’s. 

While completing her bachelors, a Chicago based clothing designer approached her and created a line of clothing just for her to model. She went on to model under the name “Trish Scott,” and throughout her life she was always very proud of her modeling accomplishments.

While in nursing school Joyce met and married her first husband Vern Hettinger on the 18th of Aug 1952. Vern was serving in the US Air Force at the time. Joyce shortly thereafter contracted Polio the first part of 1953, collapsing her spine and rib cage. At this time they found out that Joyce was pregnant. Vern was granted a hardship discharge on Aug 10, 1953 to care for and support Joyce through the birth of their baby daughter, Pamela.

At this same time, Joyce was accepted to San Diego University Medical School.  Joyce came to California in 1954 driving across country in a 1950 Hudson Pace Maker with her then husband Vern Hettinger and daughter Pamela. Joyce then finished school and Graduated 3rd in her class as a Nurse. This gave her the unique opportunity to scrub in for the very first heart transplant. Nursing was always one of Joyce’s life passions.

 While in the San Diego area they opened “Kitty Haven Nursery School” and bought their first home in  La Mesa., and a rental in El Cajon

In 1959, Joyce moved back to Chicago to be close to her family getting an apartment in Willow Springs, Illinois. Vern sold there two homes, and the nursery school to be with them, leaving his job at Convair in San Diego.  

Two years later, they moved back to Mountain View, CA to settle, and she became Head Nurse of the developing Heart Transplant Wing at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto.  

In 1964, having purchased a three bedroom house with a pool, Joyce and Vern welcomed a second child, there baby boy, Jeff.

Vern and Joyce were divorced in 1966.  She was automatically awarded custody of the children, the house, & the car.  To support all, she worked as a floating Nurse in ICU, & CCU by day, a cocktail waitress for the Officers Club at Moffett Field and an exotic dancer throughout the SF Bay Area at night.  

In 1968, the children chose to live with their father.

Joyce continued in nursing until 1985. 

In 1986, in San Francisco, Joyce met a Decorated Korean War Veteran, Al Keleher, they were married and soon relocated to Sacramento to reside.  Al passed in 2003, and Joyce, at age 70, missed him dearly. Joyce was a devoted widow of Alfred L. Keleher.

During the next 11 years, both Pamela and Jeff attempted to relocate her, as caring for herself was waning.  Just prior to Joyce’s sudden and unfortunate death, her children had just found a new home for her, and were preparing to furnish and settle her in.  Their last day with her was spent in conversations towards moving forward to a new beginning.

On Saturday January 25th, 2014 at 5:48 p.m. Joyce was struck and died immediately while crossing Florin Road in Sacramento CA.


Joyces’ life passions were Nursing, dance and entertainment, making for a unique and colorfully devoted mother.  She often created shows and performed them for senior homes and in many of the hospitals where she worked.  Surely easing the pain and suffering of those in her care.  May she rest in peace. 

Joyce is also survived by her siblings Jack, Janice, and Joan.

A Memorial will be held February 13th at 10:30 a.m. at Saint Anthony Parish 660 Florin Road CA.. 

Burial of Joyce and Alfred Keleher will be held at 3:00 p.m. the same day at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon CA. with full military honors. 

 In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations be made to the Sacramento S.P.C.A

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