Joyce Ann Pejakovich, 82, of Topeka, Kansas died Tuesday, August 17, 2021, at Brookdale Senior Living. Joyce was born June 7, 1939, in Maize, Kansas to Alva and Aleen Woodard. She is survived by her spouse, George Pejakovich and her three children: Thea Rademacher (Steve Fredrickson) and their children Nathan, Nicholas, Andrew, and Paul Fredrickson; Phillip Rademacher (Rachel) and their children Katelyn and Garrett; Ross Rademacher (Cynthia) and their children Roxy and Jessica; and her stepchildren Natasha Pejakovich-Elam (Douglas), and Gregory Pejakovich (Camille) and their son Dimitri.
Raised on a farm outside of Wichita, Kansas, Joyce learned to drive a truck before her feet could reach the pedals, raised award-winning sheep, cared for acres of watermelon by hand, and loathed gathering eggs from the chicken coop. A brilliant student, she loved music and played the piano, earning “1s” at State. Her love of family ran as deep as her Kansas roots, and the stories and humor shared by her loved ones honed her skills as a writer and storyteller.
The first woman in her family to head to college, she spent two years at Kansas State University, again succeeding academically. While working at KAKE TV/Radio in Wichita, she met and married her first husband, Gary E. Rademacher (Rod). Shortly after their marriage, Rod, who was in the Army at that time, was sent to Germany. Joyce, while pregnant, traveled alone by ocean liner across the Atlantic. They lived in Degerloch with their daughter Thea, returning to Kansas in 1964. Joyce’s beloved father built a custom home for the family just miles from the farm where she was raised. Her second child, Phillip, was born in 1968. A new job for Rod meant a move from Wichita to Lincoln, Nebraska. Her third child, Ross, was born there in 1973. During her time in Lincoln, Joyce was actively involved in the Women’s League of Voters and campaigned door-to-door, her three children in tow, for one of the first female candidates running for mayor in the United States. An extraordinarily creative woman, her days in Lincoln were full of encouraging her children to play outside and many hours of “fun,” which grown children’s eyes now know enriched their educational and moral development.
Another new job for Rod in the middle 70s brought the family to Topeka, Kansas where she lived the remainder of her life. She continued her involvement in church communities which began at First Presbyterian and ended at Grace Cathedral. Joyce had many jobs while her children were still at home. Her primary focus at that time, however, continued to be her children whom she drove to endless ballet classes and rehearsals, pre-dawn debate tournament drop-offs, and sports practices. She divorced Rod in 1983 and pivoted her career to publishing and printing. She later worked for the Topeka Convention and Visitors Bureau where she was responsible for bringing many large events to Topeka. Her final job was President and Director of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Kansas where her passion for justice and protecting those in need was on full display.
In 2005, she married the love of her life, Chaplain Colonel George Pejakovich, US Army (Ret). Joyce and George settled into a life of travel, fun with their standard poodles, and deep involvement at Grace Cathedral where George served as the Assistant to the Dean, until his retirement in 2020. Joyce continued her lifelong love of digging in the dirt, always making her outside environment beautiful. She could never have enough purple salvia in her gardens. No one could make a better Kansas farm dinner than her. And she was excited when two of her stories were published as children’s books.
A love for the Kansas prairie ran through her veins. She had a special spot in the Flint Hills where she would go and sit and watch the waving grass and feel the wind on her face, finding peace, comfort, and restoration.
A virtual celebration of life will be scheduled for October.
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