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1937 Joyce 2024

Joyce Ruffin Prater

November 25, 1937 — April 14, 2024

Joyce Ruffin Prater of Fayette, Alabama, died peacefully at home on April 14, 2024, after a lengthy illness. Her death came only four weeks after she lost her one true love, Harlan Irby Prater, III, to whom she was married for 64 years. Joyce was 86 years old.

Joyce was born on November 25, 1937, in Pickens County, Alabama, to the late Mozelle House Ruffin and Joe Pierce Ruffin of Millport, Alabama. Joyce was the oldest of five daughters and a son. She was a cheerleader and Valedictorian of the class of 1956 at Millport High School. Joyce earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics from Mississippi State College for Women (now Mississippi University for Women) in 1959, where she was a member of Phi Upsilon Omicron scholastic honor society and graduated with honors. Joyce married Harlan in Millport on September 6, 1959. They resided in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Decatur, Alabama, before making Fayette their home in 1965.

A devoted member of Fayette First United Methodist Church, Joyce served her church in virtually every lay leadership role. One of her most beautiful legacies is the needlepoint kneeling cushions that still surround the altar. A real estate agent, a Weight Watchers coach, a nutrition instructor at Brewer (now Bevill) State Community College, a gifted seamstress, and a caterer, Joyce always put others first—she was an unfailing source of motivation who touched many lives in immeasurable ways.

Joyce loved nothing more than gathering friends and family in her home. A consummate hostess, securing a place at Joyce’s dinner table was an honor and an absolute pleasure. And departing with one of her recipes was truly a gift!

In her spare time, Joyce served on the Fayette Civic Center Board of Directors—for nearly three decades, from 1982 until 2021—and she was instrumental in procuring the Civic Center’s extensive collection of folk and mainstream 20th-century American art. Joyce was named Fayette’s Woman of the Year in 1970. She was also a member of the Birmingham-Southern College Board of Directors and the Bevill State Community College Foundation Board of Directors.

Joyce relished her daily walks and regularly stopped at the church to pray. Even as her health declined, Joyce displayed love, faith and courage, and she inspired everyone around her.

Above all, Joyce was a wife and mother. She loved Harlan and their three children, Joy, Harlan, IV, and Jane, with her whole being. She cherished her family and friends.

Joyce Ruffin Prater was one of a kind.

Joyce is predeceased by her husband, Harlan Irby Prater, III. She is survived by her daughter, Joy (Stuart) Griswold of Northport, AL, son, Harlan Irby Prater, IV (Ann) of Birmingham, AL, and daughter, Jane (Frank) Yerger of Oxford, MS; sisters, June Ruffin Matsos (Michael, deceased) of Birmingham, AL, Sylvia Ruffin (William) Caldwell of Charlotte, NC, Linda Ruffin (Todd, deceased) McClinton of Pinson, AL, Jayne Ruffin (Henry, deceased) Randolph of Birmingham, AL, and brother, Larry Joe Ruffin (Mary) of Milton, GA; nine grandchildren, Lee Griswold (Kyle) Smith of Guin, AL, Lynne Griswold (Brad) Turner of Moss Point, MS, Catherine Ruffin Prater of Denver, CO, Florence Prater (Marcus) Curaca of Arlington, VA, Frank Montague Yerger, Jr., of Birmingham, AL, Sarah Jane Rivers Yerger of Oxford, MS, Harlan Prater Yerger of Oxford, MS, Lucy Brock (Alex) Loose of Charlotte, NC, and Thompson Leland Brock (Emily) of Charlotte, NC; five great-grandchildren, Kylee Joy, Lily Jane and Claire Louise Smith, James Edward (JT) Turner, and James Leland Brock; and many cousins, nieces and nephews.

At noon on Friday, April 19, the family will welcome friends for a luncheon reception, with words of celebration and remembrance being shared at 12:30 p.m. The reception will be held at the Fayette Civic Center, 534 Temple Avenue North, Fayette, Alabama. Dr. T. Michael Morgan will officiate. Joyce’s interment will be private.

The family is grateful to Bridgette Sykes for her loving care of Joyce and Harlan.

In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests that memorial donations are made to Fayette First Methodist Church, 412 Temple Avenue North, Fayette, Alabama 35555, the Fayette Civic Center, 534 Temple Avenue North, Fayette, Alabama 35555, or the charitable organization of your choice.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Joyce Ruffin Prater, please visit our flower store.


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