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Joyce Unke Dreyfus
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Birth: May 28, 1927
Milwaukee County
Wisconsin, USA
Death: Mar. 15, 2012
Waukesha County
Wisconsin, USA

In the last years of his life, as former Gov. Lee Dreyfus' health failed, it was his wife, Joyce, who took care of him.

It was Joyce who, at the age of 80, learned to operate the ventilator he required to breathe at night.

It was Joyce who lay with him in the mornings, holding hands, until the nurse arrived. And it was Joyce who was sitting with him, when he died peacefully at home in 2008.

Joyce Dreyfus, 85, died Thursday surrounded by her family at Waukesha Memorial Hospital. They mourn for her now as they did for him. But there is some consolation in their grief.

"Dad was the love of her life," daughter-in-law Susan Dreyfus of Waukesha said Friday. "There was nobody she would rather be with, and I know that's where she is now."

Dreyfus died after surgery to relieve bleeding in her brain after a fall this week at the Pewaukee assisted-living center where she lived. According to family members, she suffered strokes while under sedation and never regained consciousness.

The former Wisconsin first lady grew up on N. 39th St., blocks from her future husband, but they were hardly childhood sweethearts.

Lee Dreyfus considered the only child of Harry and Ethel Unke a little too prim and proper, the family says. She called him "Kraut und Rüben," or hayseed.

But there was no resisting the handsome man who returned from the Navy. The kids say it was love ever after.

The Dreyfuses wed in 1947 and raised two children, Susan Fosdick of Eagle River and Waukesha Judge Lee Dreyfus Jr.

Friends and family on Friday recalled Dreyfus as a woman of refined tastes, a lover of poetry and talented actress who performed in local theater productions, and a doting mother and grandmother who passed on her love of the arts to her children and grandchildren.

"Our parents wanted us to be exposed to all kinds of things, especially the arts," said Lee Dreyfus Jr.

In later years, she used her theatrical talents on her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, donning accents and characters to amuse them.

"She had such an artistic flair," said her daughter, Susan. "She loved making an audience laugh."

Joyce Dreyfus, who emphasized education as a mother, finished her degree at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where her husband was chancellor. She taught fourth grade in Stevens Point until Dreyfus' election as governor.

No great lover of politics, she traveled 3,000 miles around the state campaigning for her husband, at times drawing tears and standing ovations at appearances, her daughter-in-law says.

As first lady from 1979 to 1983, she oversaw the fundraising for and renovations of the Governor's Executive Residence and established the first Governor's Awards for the Arts in 1980.

After Lee Dreyfus left public office, she managed his speaking engagements and business affairs.

After his death in 2008, Joyce - who sacrificed her health to care for him - fell ill herself, according to family members. But she rallied in recent years and was active and lucid at the time of her death, they said.

In January, she had a "girls night in" with 31-year-old granddaughter Jennifer, ordering pizza, trying on jewelry and watching the classic film "Casablanca."

Just last week she was gushing to friend Bill Kraus, who'd managed her husband's gubernatorial campaign, about the upcoming arts program at her assisted-living center.

"She was talking about the plays they might be able to put on," he said. "She was going full speed."
Family links: 
  Lee Sherman Dreyfus (1926 - 2008)
Prairie Home Cemetery
Waukesha County
Wisconsin, USA
Created by: FLCC
Record added: Mar 16, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 86866754
Joyce <i>Unke</i> Dreyfus
Added by: FLCC
Joyce <i>Unke</i> Dreyfus
Added by: Ruhe Sanft
Joyce <i>Unke</i> Dreyfus
Added by: FLCC
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 Added: Nov. 26, 2014

- Ryan D. Curtis
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