Mary Joy Stuart Bergstrom died at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital on the fourth of February, shortly after celebrating her 93rd birthday. With her ever-present grace and dignity she passed away peacefully surrounded by beloved family and friends.
Mary Joy Crosier was born Jan. 22, 1915 at her grandparent's house in Oak Bluffs. Shortly afterwards her family returned home to Philadelphia. They later moved to Middleboro, Mass., where her father, Frank Crosier (aka Crozier), was employed as a physical education supervisor for teachers colleges in Massachusetts. Joy returned to spend many years on the Vineyard as a "summer person" and later in life made the Island her year-round home. Joy's role as a native, a summer person, and a year-rounder gave her a special perspective on Island living.
One central theme in Joy's life was art and theater. Her grandmother, Laura Sinclair, was an accomplished artist and her mother, Enid Sinclair Crosier, studied drama at the Leland Powers School in Boston, which Joy later attended. During high school Joy spent summers acting at the Rice Playhouse Children's Theater in Oak Bluffs. Later she acted in a stock company in Boothbay Harbor, then with a professional stock company at the Starlight Theater in Pawling, New York.
In the early 1940s after the birth of her first two children, Bruce and Craig, she began a business producing hand-painted bathrobes which she sold through the Women's Exchange in New York. They were very popular, featuring scenes from children's books and other custom artwork. Her line of men's robes depicting game birds and hunting scenes were sold through Crossroads of Sport, and upscale sporting accessory store. Her third child, Sandra, was born in 1954.
In 1962, Joy returned to live on the Vineyard year-round with children Sandy, Craig, and Bruce. With the exception of a few years spent in North Conway, the Island was to become Joy's permanent home. Here she quickly became involved with the growing local theater scene, and continued her robe business.
Joy's classic beauty, along with her charm and dramatic flair, made her a natural for the theater. As long-time friend MJ Bruder Munafo, Producer and Artistic Director of the Vineyard Playhouse, notes, "Joy was a luminous actress; a genuine "grande dame" of the theater!"
She loved all aspects of theater and was an accomplished director, costume designer, enthusiastic audience member and an inspiration to many. In 1972 she became involved with what was to become the Island Theater Workshop (ITW). Writer and director Mary Payne was staging a huge production of her original play "And He Shall Reign," about the last days of Christ. At the last minute the role of the Virgin Mary needed a substitute actor. Joy was a quick study; she learned the lines, created a costume in record time, and was ready to perform on opening night. Thus began her long relationship with Mary Payne, Lee Fierro, Nancy Luedeman, and other members of ITW. One of her favorite roles was "Madwoman of Chaillot." In the late 1970s, Joy was one of the founders of Theater Arts Productions and directed and appeared in many of their shows.
Sandy often played a major role in many of these including the musical "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris," which was directed by Joy. Joy's collaborations with colleague and friend Director Steve Petruska resulted in many successful performances, including "The Fantastiks" and "Godspell." Over the years she also appeared in many shows at The Vineyard Playhouse, where she also served on the Board of Directors. One of her most recent and memorable roles was the Woman in "Lovers" which Joy performed two different times with two of her favorite leading men, Frank Neil and Don Lyons. Her last Island appearance was in a 2005 staged reading of "Sadie and Ida," directed by Leslie J. Stark at the Tisbury Senior Center.
Joy was a member of the Unitarian Church, which is where she met Robert "Bob" Bergstrom, whom she married in 1994. They spent several happy years together, leading active lives that included travels to China and Scotland. They were involved in several book groups and activities through the Island senior centers, and shared a love of lively conversation.
In 1995, in her 80th year, Joy lost her beloved daughter Sandra to breast cancer, followed by the death of her husband Bob in 1999.
Sandy's seven-year-old daughter, Emily, left in Joy's care, became a blessing. As Joy moved into the role of raising Emily she found solace, inspiration, and renewed energy for life. Together they shared 12 special years, growing and learning from one another despite their age difference of 74 years! Joy once counseled that even in the darkest moments one shouldn't despair, for you never know when you may be needed by another.
Joy and Emily fulfilled each other's needs despite the tragic loss of a daughter and a mother. One common connecting thread was creativity. Joy delighted in being both a mentor and fan of Sandy and Emily's artistic endeavors. Emily has said her artistic abilities "run in the family." Notably in 1999 Joy and Emily appeared together in the Vineyard Playhouse production of "Faith, Hope, and Joy," a play by Georgia Morris written in memory of Sandy and directed by MJ Bruder Munafo.
Joy always led an active life. Until quite recently she continued to participate in theater, book groups, and activities at the senior center. She loved a drive to Menemsha and a trip to the beach. Attending Emily's school performances, lunch out with friends, and a weekly visit to the hairdresser were all part of her routine. Joy also loved a good conversation, an art at which she excelled with humor and wit up until her death. Joy will be dearly missed by her family and friends and those who had the opportunity to know her over the years. She was truly an inspiration, and a 'joy.'
She is survived by her sons Bruce Stuart and his wife Kathy; Craig Stuart and wife Bobbie; sister Lisa Sandford and her son Danny; grandchildren, Emily, Paige, Keena, Chris, Zepher, and great grandchildren Nicole and Brian.
All are welcome to share in a celebration of Joy's life on Saturday, March 15, at 11 am at the Vineyard Playhouse on Church Street in Vineyard Haven. Donations in Joy's name may be made to The Vineyard Playhouse, PO Box 2452, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.