Ada — “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” declared poet John Keats. Getting to know Joy Wellington is likely to cause most people to revise Keats’ opinion to read: “The person of Joy treasures beauty forever.”
I have become acquainted with Joy Wellington since I moved to Baptist Village a year and a half ago, but I can honestly say I’ve known about Joy Wellington many years earlier. I knew, for example, that her family had owned and operated a rather elegant photography studio that specialized in wedding and anniversary portraits. I knew that she was very active in First Baptist Church and that she had more than 200 hats in her collection of head gear. I also knew that she had been the victim of a purse-snatching mugger who had broken her hip and wrist, and I knew by way of the small-town grapevine that she had forgiven the criminal and sent men from a prison ministry team to successfully witness to him.
My participation in Village prayer meetings has enabled me to know Joy up close and personal and allowed me to ask if I might interview her as a subject for my column. She graciously agreed and I walked down the hall to her apartment where her Valentine Tree was already an object of beauty. Her Berean Sunday School class had met there a few nights previously and filled 77 goodie bags for Village residents. In this interview I learned many things about this beautiful octogenarian that I’d like to share.
Joy was the middle daughter of the Mainess family in Tulsa. Her father was employed by Douglas Aircraft and he was transferred to Coffeyville, Kan., when Joy was a senior in high school.
In Coffeyville, she enrolled at Coffeyville College of Arts and Sciences and received a degree in business and worked as registrar at the college. It was there that she met her future husband, Dean Wellington, who had recently been discharged from the U.S. Marines. He was employed by Continental Can, but the company downsized. This proved advantageous because Dean then decided to go to college.
The couple married in 1950 at Coffeyville, but he wanted to study photography, so they moved to Shawnee where he enrolled at Oklahoma Baptist University. Upon graduation, he served an internship with a master photographer at Seminole. Their first daughter Libby was born, and their first son, Rob, arrived two years later.
In 1956 the family had an opportunity to purchase the photography studio of Guy Logsdon in Ada. On Feb. 6, Joy will have spent 58 years here. Their daughter, Joanie was born in 1955, and Daniel followed in 1959.
Gradually, the Wellington’s studio specialized in wedding and anniversary portraits, and Joy chuckles that their children gained a distorted view of life as a result.
“People are at their best when they’re getting married or celebrating an anniversary, and our kids came to believe that all people always display kindness and patience,” she said.
“All our children worked at the studio. It was truly a family enterprise. Both Dean and Rob served a term as president of Professional Photographers of Oklahoma. We photographed the Miss Ada pageant, and I was privileged to be photographed with 14 Miss America winners through the years. We had acquired a great deal of special equipment by this time, always with the ideal of pointing up the natural beauty of our subjects,” Joy continued.
“We had been very active in First Baptist Church during all this time.”
“Dean died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1983. He was only 54 years old. Both girls had married and moved away by this time. Daniel was still in college. We kept the studio open until 1995.”
Forty Eight Hours, a popular TV show, selected Wellington's Studio and Joy as a wedding coordinator as a feature. Joy says that show really introduced her to the professional world of wedding consultation.
Rob had married into a family of educators, and he came to realize eventually that he, too, was more interested in a career in educator than in photography, so he closed the studio in 1995.
Nine years later, Joy was working at Sun and Fun, a woman’s dress shop. She was on her way to work at 9:30 a.m. and had parked her auto in a lot across the street from Citizen’s Bank. She was accosted by a mugger who knocked her down and snatched her purse. Her hip and wrist were broken.
The robber was arrested and jailed. Despite her pain and shock, Joy reacted in a way that was consistent with her Christian beliefs. She knew some of the men from Trinity Church who were active in a prison ministry. She called one of them and asked him to witness to the young man who had accosted her. “Tell him,” she said, “that I forgive him, but tell him about our Heavenly Father who is much more forgiving.”
The church man made the contact, and the young criminal was won. He later sent a letter of apology to Joy and her family. He was sent to prison, but he went with a far different outlook on life.
Three years ago Joy decided to move to Baptist Village. “My home in Ada was a three-story dwelling, and because of my injury, I could not manage the stairs.” When she moved, however, she brought with her the china, sterling flatware, and the fine linens that had lent beauty to her life previously. Her collection of 250 hats and innumerable elegant gowns were donated to the drama departments at Ada High and East Central University.
Joy works two days a week at a Christian Book Store and she maintains a ministry with college and young adults. She has almost finished with a book “Joy in the Womb.”
She uses Psalm 139 to minister to young couples in her church who are expecting a child. Her aim is to help them to provide spiritual and intellectual nourishment to their unborn children and to strengthen the union between the husband and wife.
When Joy looks back on her life she is grateful.
“Truly we are an extraordinary family. We have 13 grandchildren and four great-grands. All our couples are still married to their original spouses. I know God gets the credit, not us.”