By Sallie James
GULF STREAM — Joyce K. Slominski, a retired educator and philanthropist whose influence helped get mammography screenings covered by health insurance, died on Nov. 14 after a long battle with Benson’s syndrome. She was 73.
Born in Buffalo, N.Y., on Aug. 20, 1945, she married Edward Slominski on July 2, 1978. The two had met two years earlier on July 2 and had moved in together two days later on July 4. It was a love story that lasted 42 years.
“I was a lucky guy,” said Edward Slominski, who recalled meeting Joyce at a New York party and being smitten as soon as she walked in. She cut a striking figure at 6 feet tall with blond hair and a megawatt smile.
She turned heads everywhere she went, he said. “She looked like a model. She would captivate a room.”
But Mrs. Slominski never traded on her good looks. She was smart, compassionate and genuinely interested. She loved talking to people and had a special passion for children, her husband said.
Joyce Slominski attended the State University of Buffalo, where she earned a bachelor of arts in English, a master of arts in English education and became a doctoral candidate in French and English literature. The only reason she didn’t earn her Ph.D. is that they moved.
She taught in the inner-city schools of Buffalo in the early years of her career and earned a reputation for being dedicated, passionate and caring.
She was dubbed “Wonder Woman” after preventing a small girl from being injured by a heavy oak door that fell after some mischievous students removed the hinge pins.
“She put up her hand and stopped the door from crushing the girl,” Edward Slominski said. “The kids really loved her. She really related to kids.”
She was recognized for her teaching skills by schools in Texas, New York and Massachusetts. She also taught at Simmons College in Boston and Richland College in Dallas. Her range of skills included teaching English literature, French and Spanish and running a GED program for single mothers.
Mrs. Slominski was also a civic activist. In Florida, she served on the boards of directors for the Lupus Foundation and the Sandoway Discovery Center in Delray Beach.
“Sandoway was dear to her because it was a nature center for children and an educational center. That spoke to her,” Edward Slominski said. “She liked the fact that they bused in inner-city kids and she liked the women she worked with.”
Her struggle with Benson’s syndrome — a rare malady with fewer than 4,000 documented cases — was valiant and courageous, her husband said. The disease affected the part of her brain that controlled motor skills, affecting her vision and eventually her ability to walk.
She never gave up, participating in a book club until she could no longer read, then turning to books on tape so she could enjoy her love of reading in another way.
Mrs. Slominski’s friends marveled at a person who had only good thoughts for her family and those she worked with or just the casual everyday acquaintances, as she believed each person was a special gift.
Longtime friend Mary Lou Schillinger said Mrs. Slominski never complained about her illness and did whatever she could to remain involved. She was an avid cyclist and when she could no longer ride alone, her husband bought a bicycle-built-for-two so she could continue the cycling she loved.
When she could no longer drive, she walked wherever she could, Schillinger said.
“She had pep and vigor and a good sense of humor,” she recalled. She also never forgot a birthday and always sent cards. And when she lost her vision, she enlisted help from others to make sure birthday cards always got mailed, Schillinger said.
Mrs. Slominski’s influence on women’s health care is little known but significant, her husband said. Back in the late 1980s, their company, Anadyne, built what became one of the first mobile mammography clinics in the country, Mr. Slominski said.
They took the clinic to an inner-city neighborhood and conducted cancer screenings, detecting an early case of cancer in a woman who went on to serve in the Texas Senate.
Mrs. Slominski asked the senator to pass a bill that would require insurance companies to pay for mammography screenings as part of routine health care. The senator did and the bill was copied by states across the nation, so insurers were required to cover mammography, Edward Slominski said.
“She saved millions of women,” her husband said proudly.
Mrs. Slominski is survived by her husband, a son, Aaron, and daughter-in-law, Danielle, of Coral Springs; sisters Nancy Nelson of Jacksonville, Ginny Clarcq of Phoenix, and brother Walter Parcheta of Lake Worth.
A funeral Mass was scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 1 at St. Vincent Ferrer in Delray Beach, with a celebration of her life afterward at her home.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Sandoway Discovery Center of Delray Beach.