BALLINGER - When Joyce Pruitt was born in the family homestead in Norton in 1923 it was a simpler time and Runnels County had been incorporated only 34 years prior. And she would go on to be part of a lauded group of women, who worked tirelessly during World War II to support the country.

BALLINGER - When Joyce Pruitt was born in the family homestead in Norton in 1923 it was a simpler time and Runnels County had been incorporated only 34 years prior. And she would go on to be part of a lauded group of women, who worked tirelessly during World War II to support the country.

Joyce has enjoyed a long full life, which included travel, marriage, children and one of her most impressive distinctions - serving in the United States Naval Reserve (Women's Reserve), better known under the acronym WAVES for “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service,” during World War II.

Joyce was born on Feb. 7, 1923 to Roy and Corinne Estridge Roper. On Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, friends and family gathered at Beefmaster Steakhouse in Ballinger to celebrate her 95th birthday.

During the celebration, visitors lined up to wish her happy birthday, offering her hugs, kisses and memories.

“So many people showed up that I had not seen,” Joyce said. “It was wonderful.”

Her son, Bruce, organized the event.

“We really appreciated everyone coming,” he said.

Her first cousin Diane Roper Wetsel traveled from Cisco to attend the celebration, Wednesday, Feb. 7. Joyce was there when she was born in 1943.

“She’s been there all my life,” Diane said. “She hasn’t changed any - she’s still Joyce - she’s something else.”

Joyce's journey began in Norton and she has come full circle after a life of accomplishments including military service, marriage and raising a family.

After being born and raised and graduating from high school in Norton in Runnels County, she immediately went to college. But after Dec. 7, 1941, otherwise known as the day Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan, everything changed and Joyce began thinking ahead. She knew her parents, could not afford to send both Joyce and her older sister Phyllis to college. So she would move to Houston to care for her aunt’s five-year-old son. She did that for a while, the war was on and it was “all hands on deck,” in those days.

“It was war time, everybody was more or less involved - the whole country was involved,” she recalled. “I figured it was a job so I signed up.”

She would head off to Bronx, New York, for Naval training school. The intensive 12-week training course entailed eight-hour days of classroom study. The women, equivalent to yeomen, were trained to perform secretarial and clerical functions. By the time World War II ended, more than 8,000 female officers and at least 75,000 enlisted WAVES had served their country. The WAVES' duties had included everything from patching bullet holes in a naval boat to performing engine checks on a seaplane.

“I couldn’t type,” Joyce said. “So when I got there they asked me if I had a Texas drivers license. I told them ‘every girl in Texas has a drivers license.”

So she would be assigned to shuttling smaller airplane parts up and down the road and at the base.

“It was a very good experience, plus, they paid me,” said Joyce who served from November of 1944 to April of 1946.

Joyce was among the 75,000 women who made up the WAVES and is now, according to Runnels County Veterans Service Officer Sandra Van Zant, the only WAVE in Runnels County.

“It’s women like her the paved the way for women like me,” said Van Zant, a veteran of the U.S. Navy. “I’m very proud to call her my friend.”

When she returned home to Norton after serving her country, she would meet an old classmate, Paul Pruitt, who was four years older. The two married in June of 1948 and she would go on to work for the Runnels County superintendent doing payroll for all of the teachers at schools in Ballinger, Winters, Miles, Rowena and Olfen.

The Pruitts lived in Ballinger after marrying. Then, he would purchase the building of the old Runnels School at an auction and constructed their home in Norton, where she lives today, from the wood from that old school. They moved into the home, where she still resides, in 1953.

The Pruitts had two sons, Bruce and Brian. Tragedy struck in 1973, when Brian drowned on a senior trip at Oak Creek Lake.

She and Paul were living in the home when he suddenly died in 2001, after the couple had been together for 53 years.

“Things happen and we have to accept life,” Joyce said.

Bruce Pruitt moved home to Norton after his father died and has been there since, living with her on the family homestead.

Of her life, she says she’s been blessed and the changes and innovations over the past nine-and-a-half decades have been significant.

“Life was simpler way back,” she said pointing to the the placement of phones, washers, refrigerators, freezers and ovens were added to homes. “The world just changed With those inventions,” she said.

“The world just changed with inventions,” she said.