Joyce Behnke

Joyce E. Behnke (McIlree)

Tuesday, October 13th, 1925 - Tuesday, August 4th, 2020
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Joyce Edith (McIlree) Behnke, 94, died Aug. 4 at her home in South Milwaukee surrounded by her family.
She was born Oct. 13, 1925, in Palmyra, Wisconsin, the daughter of Dr. Joseph R. and Hermine (Nelson) McIlree. After attending elementary and high school in Palmyra, a town she supported all her life, Joyce studied at Milton College, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in music education and was a member of the Sigma Phi Zeta Sorority. She married Melroy E. Behnke on Nov. 16, 1946.

Joyce taught vocal music education for 38 years in several Wisconsin school districts, finishing her last 20 years in the Oak Creek School District. Christmas concert sing-alongs and annual music-dance-art “Spring Fling” performances highlighted her spirit of collaboration with her students and colleagues. She served as pianist and organist for 82 years in various churches, starting at age 12 until her death.

When she wasn’t teaching, Joyce still very busy. She vacationed and camped in Door County since childhood with her family and treasured friends, and journeyed on family travels throughout all 50 states and six continents. Throughout her life, she was an enthusiastic participant in community activities, starting with 4-H and dance band in Palmyra and moving on to various recreation department and education extension programs, including such things as rosemaling, sewing, picture framing and more. She also enjoyed repertory theater productions in Madison and Milwaukee and chaperoned many school field trips.

An avid gardener, Joyce marveled at flowers and plants during travel all over the world, as well as what she raised at home and in her classroom. She loved to knit and bake and decorated her family homes with her own “Joyce” flair, welcoming both family and friends. Joyce enjoyed conversing with everyone and welcomed many family members and friends to her home.

Joyce loved watching Mel play ball, and they enjoyed watching the Brewers, Badgers, Bucks and Packers together. While she experienced the challenges of memory loss in the last few years, Joyce had ongoing, endless and compassionate care from “her Mel.”

She is survived by her beloved husband, Melroy; her daughters, Antoinette Thompson of Milwaukee and Jacqlynn Behnke of South Milwaukee and Fish Creek; grandson Christopher (Diane) Thompson of Rosholt, great grandson Alex; her brother Joseph (Carol) McIlree and 15 nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her brother and sister-in-law Roger and Millie McIlree, and by her brother-in-law and sister-in-law Herb and Doris Behnke.

Visitation is on Sunday August 9th from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at Molthen Bell in South Milwaukee, with funeral services following. Appropriate social distancing and masks will be implemented at all activities.
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Service Details

  • Visitation

    Sunday, August 9th, 2020 | 12:30pm - 3:00pm
    Sunday, August 9th, 2020 12:30pm - 3:00pm
    Molthen-Bell Funeral Home
    700 Milwaukee Ave.
    South Milwaukee, WI 53172
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
  • Service

    Sunday, August 9th, 2020 | 3:00pm
    Sunday, August 9th, 2020 3:00pm
    Molthen-Bell Funeral Home
    700 Milwaukee Ave.
    South Milwaukee, WI 53172
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


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Ron and Vicki Lehman sent flowers to the family of Joyce E. Behnke (McIlree).
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Heartfelt Sympathies Store

Posted at 12:48pm
Mel, Jack & Toni, We pray the love of God enfolds you during your journey through grief. With love and hugs,
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Ron and Vicki Lehman

Posted at 07:11pm
Jackie and Family, Wishing you peace to bring comfort, courage to face the days ahead and loving memories to forever hold in your hearts.
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Ron and Vicki Lehman purchased flowers for the family of Joyce Behnke. Send Flowers


The Mbise Family

Posted at 09:29am
Our deepest sympathies and prayers to the entire family. May Joyce's memory live on in this memorial tree planted in America's forests in her honor.
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A memorial tree was planted in the memory of Joyce Behnke — Plant a Tree Now

Marlene Frehner, Palmyra Posted at 05:47pm

My late husband, Jim, and I rented the downstairs apartment next door owned by Doc & Minnie And later the small home they owned on Wisconsin Street after we came to Palmyra to teach. For many years Joyce would call me to see if I would tend to the live flowers she planted at their grave site at Hillside Cemetery. It was an honor to do so. I was saddened to see her obituary in the Journal as I have wondered about her often. My sincerest sympathy goes to you in your loss of a special ,talented lady.

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