Joyce West inspired smiles wherever she went.
The 59-year-old South Hill woman was known for putting others before herself, whipping up mouthwatering treats and steeling her spine when she picked up a deck of cards.
She was looking forward to being sassy at 60, a goal that will go unrealized.
West was stabbed to death Saturday in her home. One of her daughters, Meshawn West, 39, has been charged with first-degree murder in the killing. Pierce County prosecutors said the attack was a result of apparent mental health issues on the daughter’s part.
West’s five other children are working through their pain and frustration at what happened by remembering their mom as a woman who sacrificed everything for her family.
“She loved her kids and my dad with everything in her, even my sister,” daughter Arlecier West, 28, said Wednesday. “She was never about herself. If anybody needed anything, she was always there.”
Joyce West worked a few jobs as her children grew up – operating a day care, working for American Medical Systems – but her passions lay elsewhere.
She was a master cook, earning a place in dozens of children’s memories for making a kid-friendly oatmeal while volunteering at a church camp. Her sons and daughters recall waking up not to an alarm or a yell to get out of bed, but to the smell of yumminess.
Cream of wheat. Cornbread dressing. Peach cobbler. These were Joyce West’s specialties.
After she stopped working, she spent more time with her church and keeping fit by walking and doing water aerobics.
Card games transformed her, turning a gentle, loving soul into a fierce competitor. Spades, Face 10, Pluck – the game didn’t matter.
“She had so much life to her,” Arlecier West said.
But Joyce West’s biggest commitment was always to her family.
She met her husband, William West, when she was in high school and they were involved in a program at Texas Southern University. They celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in April.
Four days before her mother was killed, Meshawn West came from Las Vegas to live with her family. Not everybody agreed with Joyce West’s decision to bring her daughter home, but it was in character for the mother who just wanted to take care of her children.
Officials said it’s unclear whether Meshawn West has been diagnosed with a mental illness. Prosecutors expect her to be evaluated at Western State Hospital before the case moves forward.
Family members said they haven’t spoken with Meshawn West since she was arrested, and don’t plan on speaking with her again.
“Her mind has been getting worse and worse and worse,” Arlecier West said. “I believe if she got the help she needed, she wouldn’t have done something like this. I don’t want her to ever get out because of what she’s done. Whose to say she won’t turn on somebody else?”
The family said she began deteriorating in 1997 when her 2-year-old son accidentally drowned at a birthday party. She never sought professional help. Instead, she tried to cope with the grief on her own and grew worse as the years passed.
For whatever reason, the family said, Meshawn West apparently blamed her mother for the boy’s death, even though neither woman was present at the party.
Tashawna West, 39, remembers her mother “as a beautiful woman,” and pleaded with families dealing with mental illness to seek professional help.
“If anybody in your family is suffering from mental illness, get help. Don’t do it on your own,” she said. “It’s a taboo thing but mental illness is very real and the best thing to do is get some help.”
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653