Joyce McKeough 1937-2021
For Joyce McKeough, politics was a precious part of her life. Her father, David Walker, was a member of the House of Commons, a cabinet minister in the John Diefenbaker government, and later, a senator. Her husband, Darcy, served in the Ontario Legislature for fifteen years and was Treasurer in the Bill Davis government.
Educated at Branksome Hall and Trinity College at the University of Toronto, Joyce had been presented at court to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip and came away with a vivid remembrance of “the devastating eyes of the Prince.” Joyce was working at an advertising agency, Ronalds-Reynolds, when she was introduced to Darcy by a mutual friend in 1964. They were married the following year. Five days ago, she died at home in Bally McKeough, where Darcy was raised. A closed funeral was held today.
As an avid gardener, Joyce helped beautify the grounds of Bally McKeough. (Bally is the Irish word for homestead or place.) The sprawling lawn at the back of the house runs to a bluff with views of Lake Erie where they built seven terraces right down to the water’s edge thirty-five feet below. Between the railway ties bloom forsythia, spirea, daffs and Russian sage. Oh, and there was one other important amendment. Having grown up in Toronto with its hills and ravines, the flatlands around Chatham bothered her so the earth dug for a new trout pond was mounded to create a “hill” nearby.
Locals kept a close watch. Once, when they were doing some remodelling to the house, a local man ran into Darcy and asked, “I hear you’re putting on an addition. Is Mrs. McKeough in the family way?” Given that she and Darcy were both in their sixties at the time, they took the query as a compliment. Jogging and skiing kept her fit. Her father’s urgings kept her involved when he said, “You can be the grovelling wife or you can make it work for you.” Entertaining Peter Lougheed, breakfast with Brian Mulroney, and tea with Margaret Thatcher were just a few of the ways she made it work.
When Darcy’s memoirs were nominated for the 2016 book award presented by the speaker of the Ontario Legislature, Joyce wanted to remain after the ceremony. “This may be the last time I’m in the Legislature for something personal, but Darcy’s tired and wants to leave,” she said. “My mother always told me, ‘Stand by your man.'” Then she paused, laughed, and said, “Mothers!” They left together. Arm-in-arm. As always.