Joy S. Kilbourne
September 20, 1925 – February 8, 2021
Joy Schmid Kilbourne of Madison, loving mother and grandmother, passed away peacefully on February 8 in Middletown, CT. She was 95. Joy and her five siblings grew up in New Orleans with summers spent in a tin-roofed cottage in Bay St. Louis, MS. At age 11, Joy contracted a crippling case of polio, but she never let it slow her down and was living substantially on her own in the family home until just a month before her death. Joy received her bachelor’s degree from Newcomb College (now part of Tulane University) and later earned a master’s in social work from Tulane. She was working as a family social worker when she met Edwin D. Kilbourne, a young physician from the Northeast, who was teaching at Tulane Medical School. Despite Edwin’s sometimes insufferable attitude of Yankee superiority, the two hit it off and began a 58-year adventure together that would see them raise four sons in Ridgewood, NJ and Madison, CT. During World War II, Joy worked at the New Orleans Port of Embarkation, a 1 million-square-foot facility where tens of thousands of U.S. troops and millions of tons of supplies and equipment began their journey to battlefield. After she married and moved to New Jersey, she volunteered her services to raise funds for the local family counseling service. Edwin’s pioneering work on the influenza vaccine—he created the world’s first genetically engineered vaccine of any kind—led to the couple’s lasting friendships with Nobel Prize winners and other eminent scientists, and to scientific and social gatherings in New York City, Bethesda, MD, and the semi-annual meetings of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. Aptly named, Joy loved to socialize, and she lit up a room with her infectious smile, hospitality, and storytelling. She loved visits from her children and grandchildren, and she became a surrogate mother to many of her sons’ friends, and surrogate grandma to children in the Seaview Beach neighborhood. Joy was an avid and skilled bridge player and kept at it well into her 90’s when she was often the “baby” in her foursome of nonagenarians. She would proudly report when she “won the money,” but was equally forthcoming when she was the “booby” and got her dollar back. Later in life with her eyesight failing, she would sit in front of her large-screen TV watching “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Gunsmoke,” and her favorite, “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Toward the end of her life, a highlight of her day was sipping a “funny Bloody Mary” (with very little alcohol) and recounting the day’s visits, phone calls, and appointments. Sometimes twice. Joy was fiercely proud of each of her sons and not shy about singing their praises to friends and neighbors. She was predeceased by her brother, Michael Schmid, and sisters Louise Bull, Anna Matthews, Ivy Fails, and Joan Schmid, and by her loving husband Edwin, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 90. Joy is survived by her sons, Edwin (Barbara), Richard, Christopher, and Paul, and by grandchildren Davey, Mikey (Kristia), Becka and Katie; Oliver, Charlie, and John; and Jennifer Kilbourne (Peter) Doherty. A private service will be conducted for immediate family. A memorial service for extended family and friends is tentatively scheduled for early June. In lieu of flowers, donations in Joy’s name can be made to Doctors without Borders or The Madison Foundation.