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Street named in honor of beloved South Sider

Wearing scarves made for them by Joyce Fulgium her former co-workers Carol Bryant Leslie Graham Andrews Raymond Adams look unveiling

Wearing scarves made for them by Joyce Fulgium, her former co-workers Carol Bryant, Leslie Graham Andrews and Raymond Adams look on at the unveiling of the honorary street sign named for Joyce Fulgium. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Memory
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A brown sign designating the stretch of Lowe Avenue from 110th to 111th streets on Chicago’s South Side as the Honorary Joyce O. Fulgium Drive was unveiled last week.

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Updated: November 9, 2011 4:54PM



By all accounts, Joyce Fulgium was larger than life.

She worked hard, gave generously, loved fiercely and could pull off a gold lame pant suit like nobody’s business.

Her murder, Chicago’s first of 2010, left a void big enough to swallow up a street.

But instead of letting Fulgium’s death supersede her life, a determined Mary Claire Mathews worked for more than a year to get Fulgium’s block named in her honor.

Mathews’ vision became a reality Friday. In a ceremony at the corner of Lowe Avenue and 110th Street, the Honorary Joyce O. Fulgium Drive was unveiled. About 50 people attended the tribute to the woman who seemingly helped everyone, including the man awaiting trial for her murder.

Mathews worked with Fulgium for 25 years, first at the Chicago Public Library, then Columbia College and finally the United Negro College Fund Midwest region.

“She was a remarkable person,” Mathews said, fighting back tears. “I can say without a doubt, I will never have a better friend.”

After years of working and taking care of her father, who died at age 104 just months earlier, Fulgium, 61, had just retired and was starting to enjoy some much-deserved free time when the unthinkable occurred.

On Jan. 2, 2010, neighbor Vincent Williams, a man Fulgium had hired to do some yard work, allegedly kicked in her door and stabbed her to death. Prosecutors said Williams stole computers, jewelry and Fulgium’s Jeep to support a drug habit.

The painful irony, said Fulgium’s longtime friend Sheila Conway, is that “Joyce would have given him anything. This was so unnecessary.”

When Fulgium’s body was discovered, Mathews said, the yarn and needles she was using to knit a blanket for Williams’ pregnant wife were on her bed.

Fulgium was like a sister to Madeira Orr. The women had been good friends since the Fulgium family moved to the South Side block in 1971.

To have a street named for Fulgium seems fitting. It will help put the focus on the positives of her life, Orr said. And there are so many positives.

Fulgium helped colleague Tracy Cargo plan her wedding.

She danced in the aisles of the Chicago Public Library with Mark Knoblauch.

And she made three scarves for Helena Chapellin Wilson. Like many who attended the ceremony, the Columbia College trustee wore her favorite Joyce scarf.

Woodie White Jr., the now-retired former president of the United Negro College Fund’s Midwest region, worked with Fulgium when he was vice president at Columbia. When he moved on to the UNCF, he hired her as his assistant.

“She had extraordinary compassion, a huge sense of style and one of the most impressive African art collections in the city,” White said. “Dozens of graduates of Columbia College owe her a tremendous debt because she tapped the emergency fund to get them through to graduation.”

Knoblauch met Fulgium in 1975 or 1976 when both were working at the library.

“Somebody asked how to spell ‘encyclopedia,’ ” he said. “She and I immediately recited the Jiminy Cricket song, ‘E-N-C-Y-C-L-O-P-E-D-I-A.’

“Then she grabbed me and we started dancing. We became great friends.”

His sister, Mary Knoblauch, said Joyce had no vices “except smoking and a penchant for drinking champagne and Grand Marnier.

“If you had a party, you had to make sure there was champagne before and during dinner and Grand Marnier after.”

Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) said, “We try to do (honorary street namings) for individuals who have given back to the community, but only for those who are truly worthy. Joyce is more than worthy. I wish I had a monument to give to her. She was a blessing to us and to the city.”

Also attending the ceremony were the four police detectives who worked on Fulgium’s case.

“We’re here to honor Joyce as a pillar of the community and to show that when people come together, you can solve a crime,” Detective Regina Hightower said.

The cooperation among neighbors in solving the case was rare, Detective Clifford Martin said.

“People here were outraged that this could happen to her,” Detective Shirley Colvin said.

Still, Mathews said, too much attention has been paid to the violent way Fulgium left them.

“We want to focus on the way she lived,” she said.

Fulgium, she said, was loving and loyal and not a person to mess with.

“She was not easily intimidated,” Mathews said.

Now, thanks to the newly named block in her honor, she will not be easily forgotten.



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