If Heaven truly is “the place where all the dogs you’ve ever loved come to greet you,” there must have been some very happy reunions and many tails wagging on the morning of Aug. 7, 2019, when Joyce Leader Naftzinger, 88, was reunited with her husband, Bob; her parents, Leon Leader and Florence (Swoyer) Leader; and many beloved four-legged family members who preceded her in death.
Naftzinger passed away in her favorite place in the world, her home in Ocean View, Del. She was born on Feb. 28, 1931, in Reading, Pa. But with her love of swimming and the ocean, she was always destined to live near the beach.
When she was young, she enjoyed trips to Atlantic City with her parents. As a teenager, she was an accomplished dancer with the Marie Shaw Dancers. She performed at many Northeast venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York. But her favorite engagements brought her near the ocean. The shows on Steel Pier in Atlantic City and nightclubs in Ocean City, Md., allowed for lazy afternoons on the beach after long nights of dancing in the chorus line. Always a “head-turner,” she had many admirers at the beach and nightclubs.
In 1952, she married a Wilson High School sweetheart, Bob Naftzinger. They moved to Dover, Del., and raised three children. There, she performed with the Kent County Theater Guild, spent summer days at the Maple Dale Country Club pool and played cards regularly with her bridge club. She continued playing bridge well into her 70s, with friends she made after moving to New Jersey in 1977.
In her high-school yearbook, she listed the beach and traveling as two of her favorite things. In her long and interesting life, she was able to enjoy both. After leaving Dover in 1971, the family lived in Georgia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and New Jersey. She and Bob traveled to Europe, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean. In her later years, she satisfied her wanderlust with road trips all over the East Coast, packing up the car with a cooler and her favorite travelling companions, her dog and her daughter.
Naftzinger was always an artistic soul. She wrote poems and short stories, but oil painting was her true love, and she was quite an accomplished artist. The walls in all the homes where she had lived were filled with her beautiful artwork. She left an extensive collection of seascapes, which family continue to enjoy, along with all those memories of the times she made them laugh, intentionally or not.
She was an excellent swimmer, and her favorite exercise was swimming laps at the “Y.” She was still swimming a half-mile several days a week even into her 80s.
Besides relaxing on her porch with a good book in her hands and a cat on her lap, Naftzinger also loved the beach, the boat, the Bluecoast restaurant, Mickey’s and the library. She even worked as a librarian in Greenville, S.C., and Deptford, N.J. She loved being surrounded by books, and her idea of Heaven would be an endless library with all the books that were ever written and ever will be.
Naftzinger was not an experienced cook when she was first married. She loved good food, so she quickly learned to make delicious meals. Though each meal was delicious, she rarely followed her own recipes, so nothing ever turned out the same way twice, possibly partly due to the fact that, like so many great chefs, she enjoyed “cooking with wine.”
She loved reading mystery novels, but her TV viewing was limited to things that made her laugh. She was a big fan of Mel Brooks and Peter Sellers movies, still laughing out loud even though she knew the dialogue by heart.
Naftzinger is survived by three children, Bobby Naftzinger and his spouse, Moe, Jill McKinney, and Tana Naftzinger and her spouse, Dwayne Boughter; six grandchildren, Nikki McKinney (and Paul Yanero), Rusty McKinney (and Kelly), Ryan Naftzinger (and Marcie), Katie Palmer (and Brian), Jordan Naftzinger and Jamey Rogers (and Richard); eight great-grandchildren, Riley and Maggie Naftzinger, Cabrina, Amalia and Tyrus McKinney, Bailey and Kagan Palmer, and Paisley Yanero, all of whom she prayed for everyday and loved deeply, although from a distance; a sister-in-law, Linda Bonnett of Arnold, Md.; and her two beloved cats, Tubby and Wishbone.
Wishing that no animal would ever be homeless, hungry or suffer in any way, she adopted as many rescues as she could and fed any stray smart enough to wander to her door. Of course, these “strays” ultimately and predictably became cherished family members.
She was a firm believer in living life without regrets. She enjoyed her life, did what she wanted and followed her dreams. Her favorite song was “Cabaret,” which summed up her philosophy on life.
Memorial donations may be made to any charity for animal welfare. All services are private. Arrangements are being handled by Parsell Funeral Homes and Crematorium, Clarksville Chapel, Ocean View, Del. Condolences may be sent online at www.parsellfuneralhomes.com.