Resident Spotlight: Joy Wernet


In 1926, a “bundle of joy” was born to Joe and Kate Bennett. This baby daughter brought such delight to their lives, they named her Joy. She would be the only child born to this couple who lived in a rural community near Paris, Tennessee. There were many cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, so Joy was never lonely or unloved.

Joy was born at the beginning of the Great Depression, and her family struggled like most families. To improve life, Joy’s parents moved to Illinois when she was two years old. Unhappy with the location, they moved back to their community. Joy says, “This was when my memory ‘kicked in.’ I remember crossing the Ohio River on a ferry, and I was cold and afraid. We were dressed in our Sunday clothes and traveling in a little green Chevrolet roadster with a cloth top and side curtains. This car would be our primary transportation for many years.”

The Bennetts were fortunate to find a nice house in their former community that was close to a school, church, a store, and good neighbors. Joy’s father returned to farming, and life was good.

One incident Joy vividly remembers happened when she was around two years old. Her grandfather kept bees. When no one was looking, Joy took the hearth broom and attempted to sweep all the bees off their hives. Her screams quickly brought her father, and holding her between his legs like a vice, he removed the stinging bees. “Somehow, I recovered,” remembers Joy, “but I started wearing a hat like the ‘flappers,’ and if anyone yelled ‘bees,’ I would grab my hat and run for cover!” Joy also remembered riding along with her mother in their little green Chevrolet to take the 1930 census in part of Henry County. They would make many life-long friends with this venture.

Joy as a child

In 1932, Joy started school but was placed in the second grade because her mother had home-schooled her. She lived a mile from the school, and her parents took turns walking her to and from school. During “muddy” weather, her father would put on boots and carry her across a field to avoid roads. Because of her advanced placement in school, Joy always felt the age difference as her friends were older. However, she excelled in school, graduating high school in 1943 at the age of 16 as Valedictorian of her class.

The week following graduation, Joy started work in Paris as a cashier and bookkeeper for a ready-to-wear store to help with college expenses. The following Fall, the shy “country girl” Joy enrolled in Murray State College in Murray, Kentucky. She says, “I never dreamed that I would be invited to join a sorority or become a campus favorite.”

After three years of college, Joy returned to work in Paris to help with college expenses. Soon Joy began dating Jim Hunt, Jr., a returning Veteran. Both their parents owned farms in the same community and attended the same Baptist church. Soon, a wedding was being planned. It would be 20 years before Joy returned to school, graduating with a degree in Business Administration, with majors in Accounting and Economics, from Bethel College in McKenzie, Tennessee. 

Joy in the office
Joy Hard at Work

After marriage, Joy and Jim continued their jobs in Paris. Later, they decided to try farm life. “At first it was fun,” says Joy. The couple had invested their money in dairy cows for their farm. They were members of the Home Demonstration Club, and Joy did some auditing for them. They participated in the county fair, winning prizes in many categories. Their only child, Joe, was born in I950. However; things didn’t work out as expected, and the “fun in farming” was waning! Jim started a new business, and when Joe was three years old, Joy returned to work, beginning a career in Accounting.

Joy’s first job was with the newly built hospital in Henry County. She became their first Chief Accountant. Just as the hospital was succeeding and expanding, the hospital administrator suddenly died. Joy says, “Most of his work fell on me, temporarily. Three months later, Jim had a fatal accident. It took all the ‘grit’ I had to make it through this ordeal.” Joy survived and became an active participant in the state and national organizations of the American Association of Hospital Accountants. She was editor of the state newsletter and wrote a paper which won first place and a trip to the National Institute as well as having her paper published in their national magazine.

In 1966, Joy’s life changed when she met and married Bob Wernet of Memphis. She acquired two more children, with whom she remains very close. Bob was a successful businessman, and soon Joy was working with him. They were active in many social organizations, and together, they traveled all over the world. “As much as we traveled, I never visited New York City,” admits Joy. After retiring in 1994, they bought a second home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and lived there and Memphis for the next 20 years, spending six months in each location.

In 2014, as their health continued to fail, Joy and Bob made the decision to move to Kirby Pines. They quietly celebrated their 50 year anniversary. Sadly, Bob passed away in January 2017. Joy has continued to be involved in activities at Kirby Pines, especially playing bridge. Joy says, “I’m glad to be living at Kirby Pines!” 

Written by Joan Dodson, Resident of Kirby Pines.