Each year since 2004, the Blaine County Historical Museum has asked community groups to name ladies to its Heritage Court, which honors women who have contributed to shaping the history of the Wood River Valley. The nominees must have lived in the valley for at least 30 years and be at least 70 years old.
This year’s nominees are Dorothy Ann Outzs of Hailey, Vivian Bobbitt of Bellevue, Elizabeth “Betts” Simon of Sun Valley and Joyce Edwards of Carey.
The women will be honored in a coronation ceremony at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey on Sunday, June 22. The public is invited.
The four ladies will ride in a vintage carriage in Hailey’s Fourth of July Parade, Carey’s Pioneer Days Parade, Ketchum’s Big Hitch Wagon Days Parade and Bellevue’s Labor Day Parade.
Between now and the coronation, each issue of the Idaho Mountain Express will include a story profiling one of the 2014 court nominees. This issue features Joyce Edwards.
On Dec. 10, 1967, Joyce Edwards was hit head-on by a rogue driver. Doctors told her she might never walk again. By the next summer, however, she was baling hay and irrigating crops in a pair of boots that were two sizes too big.
It seems that nothing keeps Edwards from meeting a challenge.
A prize-winning diver, swimming coach, active Blaine County Republican, 4-H leader, owner (with husband, Lawrence) of prize-winning Belgian draft horses and a bookkeeper/organizer extraordinaire, Edwards was nominated by the Carey Economic Revitalization Group to this year’s Heritage Court.
Each year, the Blaine County Historical Museum honors four county women for their contribution to the region’s history and community development. Edwards joins three others for a crowning at the Liberty Theatre on June 22. Wood River Valley residents can also celebrate these ladies later in the summer, when they ride in horse-drawn carriages during summer parades.
Asked why she was nominated, Edwards shrugged modestly.
“They told me I’m a rounded person,” she said.
Well-rounded is putting it mildly.
A picture from Edwards’ high school diving days illustrates a striking and lithe young woman whose grace and warm smile have not diminished as the years have passed. In her diving days, she performed synchronized doubles, diving in many competitions with her high school partner.
The kind of skill required to dive in tandem led to an 18-year stint teaching Red Cross survival swimming. In fact, after taking the requisite college classes at College of Southern Idaho, Edwards taught survival swimming at several upper valley pools. That involved packing 20-odd kids into a couple of station wagons and driving up the valley to the pool at the Hiawatha Hotel in Hailey, which was located at First Avenue and Croy Street. Built in 1883, the hotel succumbed to fire in 1979.
“I started kids when they were really little,” Edwards said. “You have to get them to be really good swimmers because if you are trying to save someone, unless you are a really capable swimmer, that person will drown you.”
“Then when they got really smart,” she said, chuckling about her graduating swimmers, “I had them jump in the water wearing a pair of Levis and heavy boots. That got their attention!”
Edwards has also been active in local politics; she served as secretary for the Blaine County Republicans for 10 years.
“I was also the youngest precinct person,” she said of her representation of Carey voters, which spanned 18 years.
Moreover, as a state committee member of the Blaine County Farm Bureau, Edwards lobbied to promote benefits for local agriculture.
“We worked for the farmers,” she said.
4-H has also been a key part of Edward’s community involvement. She wrote leadership programs in both bicycling and snowmobiling for Carey kids. In the late 1960s, as the reigning snow queen in the West Yellowstone area, and the Western regional area, Edwards was a respected trailblazer in 4-H snowmobile safety and etiquette. Kids were taught practice and welfare skills and “to be nice and polite and respect the country.”
In the mid-1970s, she organized a snowmobile expedition for about 30 children.
“We rode from Smiley Creek to Stanley. Stayed the night there and then rode back to Smiley Creek the next day.”
Both Edwards and her husband have been honored many times for their years of participation in South Valley 4-H.
“4-H and the kids are my passion,” she said.
Edwards’ love of animals is perhaps most grandly expressed in the champion Belgian draft horses that she and Lawrence exhibited in parades and shows across the West. She also judged and promoted draft horses across the region, initiating the Southern Idaho Draft Horse and Mule Association in 1991. Edwards said her horses have been in Ketchum’s Wagon Days Parade since 1991, and 2013 was the first year they were absent.
Instead, the Edwards’ granddaughter, Shelby, participated on her own for the first time, with her magnificent Belgian pair, Duke and Robin, whom the Edwards family raised.
“For many years, we had two or three different entries,” Edwards said of their participation in Valley parades. “Believe me, it’s a lot of work, but rewarding to see our beautiful horses, dressed up, cleaned up and prancing.”
One might think that this grand dame of the South Valley might be enjoying a more quiet life now that she has qualified for the Heritage Court’s prestigious award. Not so. Edwards teaches a “Fit and Fall Proof” class at the Senior Center in Carey.
“The whole idea is to get the right sort of exercise in your later years, so you don’t fall,” she said. “I’m still teaching the class, even after a recent hip surgery.”
This surgery is one of many—a legacy of the 1967 car accident. However, a surgery or two won’t keep Edwards out of commission for long.
“I have three great helpers who take over while I recover,” she said.
Not recovering, for Edwards, is simply not an option.