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Joyce Ruddock: In memoriam

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The sky was overcast as the four cars pulled into the driveway of Joyce Ruddock’s beach house on Saturday afternoon in late August.

We – and by that I mean the members of the LTC Executive Study Council – had driven to the beach from downtown Providence, R.I., where we were holding our summer meeting. Joyce and Charlie, her husband, had invited us to an afternoon cocktail party so we could see their new home. 

The council is a group of 20 women who are leaders in the LTC industry. We have been meeting twice a year for 12 years. Joyce was a founding member.

Earlier that day, in our morning meeting, Joyce had shared with us how every cancer treatment tried so far had failed. Yet, she was incredibly optimistic, exclaiming the benefits of a new macrobiotic diet that she was embracing and how she hoped this would make a difference. We were all inspired by her positive “I’m not going to give up the battle” attitude.

Yet, in retrospect, we should have not been surprised by her incredibly positive attitude. Her optimism was an integral part of who she was. It encompassed her vision for the LTC industry, her corporate career and even her own personal life.

Nothing was out of bounds with Joyce, in both her thinking and intellectual approach.

Her accomplishments in our industry were huge. For years in our meetings, she had discussed her vision of LTC Partnership plans on a national level. Knowing her determination and her ability to always have her eye on the big picture and what was important, none of us doubted her ability to make Partnership a reality.

Joyce’s connection to LTC was not just insurance but encompassed her desire, mission and a passion to make the lives of our aging community more dignified and honored.

The fact that she has left us at such a young age – 58 – is a cruel irony.

She provided the same kind of visionary leadership in her corporate management positions. She started at Travelers, where some of us first met her, moved to MetLife, then to United HealthCare, and finally to LifePlans as CEO. She led with compassion, vision and creativity. She frequently mentioned how important it was to motivate her employees to delivering the best they could.

Even in her own personal life, Joyce knew what she wanted. I remember her sharing the story about being on the corporate management track; and, after she turned 30, she realized that she had forgotten to get married. And so entered Charlie, her beloved husband.

In addition to considering Joyce a friend, we all admired her. She was warm, kind, graceful, tough under fire and mostly so intelligent.

She approached her cancer with the same optimism. She was fighting on but at peace with wherever that journey took her. I keep recalling her telling us in Providence what a wonderful gift her father gave her in his peaceful death and that she was not afraid. I did not want to imagine that she was facing it so soon herself, but she did truly seem at peace with whatever time she had. She was a wonderful example of how to live and die with dignity, perspective and grace.

At the beach house, hours later we piled back into the car to return to the hotel. The sun was starting to set as Joyce stood on the porch waving goodbye. The farewell hugs were casual, because none of us really believed it would be the last time we would see her.

Joyce, we will miss you.

P. S. Thank you to the many Executive Study Council members who sent their thoughts and words of wisdom to help us share our vision of Joyce.

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