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Obituary

Senator Joyce M. Holmberg, 86, of Rockford, died March 20, 2017 at Fairhaven Christian Retirement Center. Born July 19, 1930 in Rockford, the daughter of Hartley and Lillian (Oberg) Lundeen. She married Eugene Holmberg, an artist and advertising executive, on Apr. 12, 1952.
First elected in 1982 for the 34th District, Joyce, a Democrat, served ten years in the Illinois State Senate where she earned a reputation as a staunch and effective advocate for Illinois public education, at every level. She led passage of tax amnesty legislation that generated $164 million for education and local governments. She created the Illinois College Savings Bond program and secured State funding for the Northern Illinois University campus in Rockford. She also was a strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. Her work in Springfield was recognized by awards from numerous organizations in Rockford and throughout Illinois. Joyce enjoyed the support of many friends and constituents from both sides of the aisle who helped to make her successful throughout her political career.
A lifelong resident of Rockford, Joyce graduated from East High School and earned a B.S. in Education, with highest honors, at Northern Illinois University. She went on to do graduate work at Rockford College before completing a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology at the Adler School of Professional Psychology, which later honored her with a Distinguished Alumna Award.
Holmberg began her career as a teacher in the Rockford Public Schools. She later worked as the community relations director for the Teacher Development Center and then became the parent community coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools, hosting a weekly cable television show focused on parenting. She also served as an instructor at Rock Valley College.
Joyce believed in devoting her energy to organizations making a difference in the world. She was Director of the League of Women Voters of Illinois and a member of the Rockford League of Women Voters, a member of the State of Illinois and the Rockford AAUW Education Committees, a member of the Rockford YMCA board, a founding member of the Rockford Network, a board member at the Swedish Historical Society and was also on the Boards of Adler School of Professional Psychology and NIU Law School. She was a volunteer for many political campaigns and referenda. She also was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1984, 1992, and 1996. Joyce was a member of St. Mark Lutheran Church and a past member of Zion Lutheran Church where she was involved in the Mr. and Mrs. Group. Joyce also enjoyed reading all manner of books - especially when it came to reading selections for and attending her book club.
Joyce is survived by her husband, Eugene; daughters, Gail (Henri Gillet) Holmberg and Polly (Charlie) Haller; grandchildren, Victoria and Maia Gillet, and Dillon and Wyatt Haller; sister, Phyllis (Keith) Carriere, sister-in-law, Janet Jegen; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. She was predeceased by her son, Todd Holmberg. After their son died in a car accident in 1976, she and her husband created an award at East High School in his memory and founded Bereaved Parents of Rockford (a chapter of Compassionate Friends); they co-chaired the group for several years.

Joyce also belonged to the Lake Ripley Country Club in Cambridge, WI where she and Gene had a summer home for many years. She loved playing golf both in Wisconsin with the family and at Sandy Hollow with the ladies group. Joyce and Gene co-founded an international dinner club that rotated every two months to another house to experience the cuisine of a new country. Joyce and Gene loved to travel, starting with a cross European trip in 1954. The slide show and script about that trip made the church basement circuit in the 50's when few in Rockford had travelled abroad. When their children were young, most of their trips were camping across the USA but later they travelled internationally including Mexico, Jamaica and many more trips to Europe - as well as annual spring trips to Destin, Florida for golfing. Joyce was known for her colorful, stylish clothes (always bought at a discount). She and Gene loved to go to the theatre and looked for any chance to dress up for a party and go dancing. More than anything, she loved bringing the family together to celebrate family traditions. Joyce also enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren - and was always up for a game of cards or charades - or ‘pretzel time'. Many memories were also made with their close-knit group of neighbors with whom they shared many New Year's parties,
Birthday parties - as well as their joys and sorrows over the years.

Funeral service will be at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 30, 2017 at Zion Lutheran Church, 925 5th Ave, Rockford, with Rev. Dr. Michael Thomas officiating. A lunch will be provided after the funeral at the church. Visitation will be from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29, at Olson Funeral & Cremation Services, Fred C. Olson Chapel, 1001 2nd Ave. Private family burial at Arlington Memorial Park. Memorials may be made to the Wisconsin Parkinson Association, 2819 W. Highland Boulevard, Milwaukee, WI 53208.

Condolences & Shared Memories (8)

  1. Deanna Neuberg

    Sincerest condolences to Senator Holmberg's family. May sweet memories sustain you and give you peace.

  2. Martha Andreen Brogren

    Condolences to Joyce's family. She accomplished so much to help improve public education in Illinois. Hers was a life well lived.

  3. Valeri DeCastris

    Rockford has lost another icon and a grand and gracious lady who held the "woman's seat" in the Senate with grace and distinction. I was honored to call Senator Holmberg my friend. We had great times in Springfield and our families have professional ties back to the 1940s. Her husband Gene painted beautiful placards that announced the songs that my father's band, the Val Eddy Trio performed live on WTVO's Song Shop in the 1950s. I still have them sixty years later. My father had great regard for Gene and Joyce and my late godmother Gloria Grilli Leombruni was a good friend of Joyce's. Joyce was a great advocate for Rockford and always so gracious to visitors to her Rockford office and to the State Capitol. She and the other Democratic legislators made a great team in Springfield in friendlier times there. I recall seeing Joyce at a symposium on Parkinson's Disease, which my father also had. She was struggling with it, but insisted that we have lunch soon afterward nevertheless. Its hard to believe that she is actually gone, but her memory will live on with her family and many friends and her legacy of good works for Rockford and the State of Illinois. My deepest condolences to Gene and the family. God Bless you all and may His face shine on Joyce when they meet. Prayers that you all find peace at this sad time.

  4. Chuck and Tara Mufich

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Joyce. She was a good Christian in life and citizen in the world she lived in. Joyce was an example for all who knew her.

  5. Dolores Ford

    What a caring and intelligent person! She and I met at the YWCA Metro Women's Network and Board Meeting. Also, we met at the Welch Teacher Development Center when I was a Substitute Teacher there. She always supported the advancement of women"s careers. I will always remember her impact on our community.

  6. Janice Petzke Wilcox

    What a wonderful life your Mom lead, such dedication to her family and community. We shared so many happy, and a few sad times together and I am grateful for your families friendship over the years. Who knew a simple conversation between our Dads over building homes would forever change our lives and bond our families for a lifetime.

  7. Paul Wixom

    Joyce was a colleague and friend We worked for District #205 and TDC.She was outstanding in her field.My condolences to the family.

  8. Terri Lindmark

    Dear Joyce's Family, Joyce will never be forgotten--her ability and work toward making good outcomes at meetings was appreciated. Joyce had the rare ability to draw people together and help them reach a positive consensus. It was always a pleasure to be with Joyce--her smile always was a bonus, also, and, as you said her cheerful, beautiful attire. Respectfully, Terri Lindmark


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