Joyce "Joy" Haessler, a colorful woman who found adventure and celebrated community life as a newspaper reporter, died March 21 of complications from a fall, her family said. She was 76.
Mrs. Haessler spent 23 years writing features and sports stories for the Mountain Democrat in Placerville, starting in 1971 after writing a letter to the editor complaining about the paper's lack of coverage of El Dorado Hills. She was hired to cover schools and went on to report on Little League games, swim meets and other local activities that connected readers in western El Dorado County.
"She worked for a pittance," said her husband, Ralph. "She didn't care about the money at all. She had always wanted to be a journalist. She really liked to write."
Mrs. Haessler thrived on her work. A sweet, enthusiastic woman who enjoyed meeting people and exploring places, she spent hours talking to students and teachers and writing positive stories about school activities. Her education coverage won several honors, including the John Swett Award from the California Teachers Association.
A diehard San Francisco 49ers fan, she was thrilled to cover the team at training camp in Rocklin and at Candlestick Park in the 1984 playoffs. She caught owner Eddie DeBartolo on an elevator for an interview after a game before entering the locker room ahead of a pack of reporters.
"She gets pushed up to the front with Joe Montana, who's sitting there naked," her husband said. "She's looking up at the sky, and she almost ended up in his lap."
Mrs. Haessler's career as a journalist was shaped by a natural love of life. She was active in civic groups, including the Beta Sigma Phi sorority and Folsom Lioness Club, and played Bunco with a group of El Dorado Hills friends every month for 40 years.
Raised in San Francisco, she "loved the fog and bought every painting that Thomas Kinkade ever painted of San Francisco," friend Jo Shuman said. Mrs. Haessler also loved skunks, filling a room of her home with more than 2,100 ceramic figures, paintings and stuffed toys depicting the malodorous mammal.
"In 1942, she saw 'Bambi,' " her husband said, "and she just fell in love with Flower the skunk."
Born in 1936 in San Jose, Joyce Arlene Weaver graduated from George Washington High School in San Francisco. She attended San Francisco City College and studied journalism at Humboldt State University.
She was married for 54 years to Ralph Haessler, who is retired from the state Department of Motor Vehicles. They raised three children in El Dorado Hills and moved to Rocklin in 1995.
Mrs. Haessler retired from the Mountain Democrat in 1994. Since then, she had volunteered at the California Air Museum and with Friends of the Library in Rocklin.
"Joy had a personality that matched her name," Mountain Democrat editor Michael Raffety said in column published Monday.
"She was a conscientious but a real positive person," he added in an interview. "She was always upbeat, and that came through to the people that she was covering."
Joyce 'Joy' Haessler
Born: May 9, 1936
Died: March 21, 2013
Survived by: Husband, Ralph of Rocklin; children, Victoria Bernatchy of Sacramento, Peter of Rocklin, and Heidi Marzo of Rocklin; seven grandchildren
Remembrances: In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Shriners Hospitals for Children, Northern California; or to Friends of the Library in Rocklin.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.