Joyce Taylor Middleton

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Joyce Taylor Middleton of Georgiana in south Alabama died peacefully Monday, May 16, 2011 in Georgiana. Her family will receive guests at Johnson Funeral Home, 218 Highway 106 West in Georgiana, from 6 until 8 pm Thursday, May 19. A simple Christian graveside service, as was her wish, will be held Friday, May 20 at 1 pm at the Taylor and Middleton family plot in Georgiana’s Oakwood Cemetery on Oakwood Street. The Rev. Harold Bordages of the First United Methodist Church of Georgiana, the Rev. Reid McCormick of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Greenville, and the Rev. Canon Joseph A. Gibbes of The Cathedral of the Advent in Birmingham will officiate. Mallie Ireland of Birmingham will sing. Immediately following the service Mrs. Middleton’s family will host a reception at Middlewood, the family home at 742 Ebenezer Road in Georgiana

Mrs. Middleton was born in Georgiana March 11, 1929, graduated from Georgiana High School, and in 1951 earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Huntingdon College in Montgomery. Before her marriage she taught third grade for one year in Fort Walton Beach, Florida where her father, Harry Oliver Taylor, Jr., a Georgiana businessman and representative of Butler County in the Alabama legislature, and her mother Willene Perry Taylor had a small beach cabin. On November 22, 1952 she married Albert Morris Middleton of Garland, Alabama in a candlelight ceremony at the First Methodist Church of Georgiana where Mrs. Middleton was a lifelong member. Mr. Middleton — who was a Georgiana business leader and died July 15, 2000 — worked early in his career for the Gulf Oil Corporation after serving in India in the United States Army during World War II and graduating from the University of Alabama. During this time he and Mrs. Middleton lived for short periods in New Orleans, Louisiana, and in Mobile, Dothan and Montgomery, Alabama before returning home to Butler County.

Mrs. Middleton had an artist’s soul. She was an accomplished musician and studied classical piano under Mrs. Ruth Dismukes. In her adulthood she continued her musical studies with pipe organ instruction at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Montgomery under Dr. Harald Rohlig, a concert organist and organ professor at her alma mater. She was a well-known classical and popular pianist and organist, entertaining regularly in her home, and she periodically played the organ for services and held recitals at the First United Methodist Church of Georgiana. She occasionally played for worship at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Greenville, Alabama where later in her life she was an affiliate congregant.

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Mrs. Middleton was most profoundly a committed Christian and worshiped through great religious art and the liturgical music of the great masters of which Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel were her favorites. She collected Christian icons, Madonnas and other replicas of religious artwork. Her favorite artwork was Michaelangelo’s pietá, the statue of the Virgin Mary holding the crucified Christ in her arms, housed at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, and she made a special trip with her husband and friends to the New York World’s Fair in 1964 to view the artwork on its last ever display outside the Vatican.

Mrs. Middleton read widely and was a talented needleworker, designing and constructing her own artworks including a near life-sized contemporary needlepoint portrait of the Madonna and Child. She was gifted and accomplished at French hand sewing and made fine hand-sewn children’s ribbon and lace garments which she contributed and were offered for sale at St. Thomas’ bazaars to benefit the parish. Mrs. Middleton also collected antiques and Oriental rugs and created a beautiful home at her and Mr. Middleton’s Middlewood in Georgiana where the wellbeing of her family was her avocation and predominant passion. She was attentive in their latter days to her mother, to her parents-in-law, Zoma Arester and Ruby Alelaide Bennett Middleton of Garland, and to her husband.

She often worked both in front of and behind the scenes in downtown Georgiana’s Taylor Mercantile Company, the family business established in 1925 by her grandfather, Harry Oliver Taylor, Sr., and operated in their lifetimes by both her father and husband. She was a visible and popular figure in the Georgiana community, volunteering at blood drives, crippled children’s clinics, church and school functions and working at the store, and was a member of the Three Arts Club of Georgiana and Chapman. Mrs. Middleton was a good cook and loved strawberries, cold milk, orange juice and anything chocolate. She was elegant, dignified and hospitable, and had an overwhelming love of great beauty and an overpowering regard for the value of the human soul. She was affectionate and kind toward her many animals, including the horses of her childhood, her many dogs, and the last member of her menagerie, her beloved and devoted Weimaraner and friend Woody.

Above all her traits was her Godly, tender and compassionate heart which led her to reach out to others quietly and generously throughout her lifetime, loving God above all else, her neighbors as herself, and regarding profoundly the wellbeing of others. She was an outstanding and devoted daughter, wife and mother and a kind and attentive neighbor and friend to all with whom she came into contact. She had a great many friends and acquaintances and was beloved by all who knew her.

Mrs. Middleton is survived by two sons, Albert Morris Middleton, Jr. of Birmingham, Alabama and Oliver Taylor Middleton of Big Sky, Montana. Also surviving are her daughter-in-law, Barbara Rowley, and two granddaughters, Anna Perry Middleton and Katherine Bennett Middleton, all of Big Sky. Mrs. Middleton’s family is profoundly grateful to God for her well-lived life, and is indebted to her friends, ministers, doctors and especially to the committed and devoted group of caregivers and friends who worked around the clock in her home during her latter years to support her and make her comfortable, by whom she was lovingly regarded as “Miss Joyce.” Sandra Owens Miles led the group which included Kimberly Owens, Mary Frances Henderson, Joyce Owens Johnson, and Alisa Cheatham. The family is also grateful to James Bush, a faithful friend and Taylor Mercantile Company employee for over 65 years, Jessie Blackmon who took care of the grounds at Middlewood, and to Margaret Jane Gaston a neighbor and friend who served as clerk and paymaster.

In lieu of flowers the family requests you remember the First United Methodist Church of Georgiana, St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Greenville, the Cathedral of the Advent in Birmingham, worthwhile Christian and social charities, and the wellbeing of animals and the poor. Online condolences may be made at

We praise you for your saints who have entered into joy. May we also come to share in your heavenly kingdom.
— Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.