Helen Joynes, bus operator and honorary member of the Class of 2013, dies

From The Daily Princetonian
November 3, 2014

Helen A. Joynes, a bus operator with First Transit, the service provider of the University’s TigerTransit bus system, died on Oct. 25 at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton. She was 62 years old.

Joynes, a lifelong resident of Trenton, served TigerTransit as a bus operator since January 2009. Students and members of the community said they remember her greeting riders with a smile, saying, “The weekend is only a few days away.” The cause of death is unknown.

“Helen exemplified customer service, always going above and beyond in her efforts to provide safe and enjoyable transportation around the Princeton campus. Her professionalism was beyond reproach. Her attendance record was perfect, and her students and her colleagues loved her,” First Transit Communications Manager Stephanie Creech said on behalf of Steve Skoler, First Transit area general manager for New York/New Jersey University operations.

Joynes was presented with the highest degree of recognition from the Alumni Association on June 3, 2013 when she was named an honorary graduate of the Class of 2013.

Zachary Beecher ’13, who served for four years as president of the Class of 2013, said Joynes was chosen as an honorary graduate because of her service to the University and her ability to make students feel at home.

“The aim of the honorary class memberships is to recognize people whose service to Princeton is total and big picture not to the University itself but to community,” Beecher said. “We were lucky to have her and lucky to recognize her.”

Beecher added that Joynes helped make the University feel magical at times.

“She, for so many students, was the first face that you would see coming back to campus from a long trip and, for so many people, her smiling face was your home,” he said. “We often forget all of the smaller pieces that go into creating the larger experience that every one of us is really, really thankful for.”

Known simply by members of the community as “Miss Helen” or “Helen,” Joynes won the hearts of many of her passengers with her sunny disposition.

Wilglory Tanjong ’18 said she met Joynes two summers ago as a junior in high school while attending classes on campus through the college preparation program Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America. Tanjong and her classmates would often ride Joynes’ bus from Witherspoon Hall to Wilcox Hall.

“She would always be there as if she knew we were coming out of the dining hall,” Tanjong said. “Even sometimes when we would be walking, she would always stop the bus and ask, ‘Do you want a ride?’ ”

When Tanjong saw Joynes again this summer, she said Joynes was very excited about her award from the Class of 2013.

“I was so happy for her, and you could tell how much that award meant to her because she told that story over and over because she was just so excited,” Tanjong said.

Tanjong said that Joynes’ disposition and radiance were not what you would expect from a bus ride.

“If I was sad, I couldn’t be sad around Helen”, she said.

Tomi Johnson ’16, who knew Joynes since her freshman year, said she felt that Joynes was a part of her entire Princeton experience.

“The day I met her for the first time was, I think I was going to Firestone, and she said, ‘Hi sweetheart’ — it was always really endearing,” she said.

Johnson said she got to know Joynes from seeing her frequently and added that she even began to remember what times she would do routes. Johnson’s favorite memory with Joynes was on a dark night when she saw the bus and chased after it, not expecting the bus to stop.

“Helen was always looking out,” Johnson said. “I did not expect to catch it, and she let me on.”

Johnson noted that the last time she saw Joynes was the week before fall break. She added that she found out about Joynes’ death through a Facebook post and was in disbelief since she had seen Joynes so recently.

Joynes’ funeral was held on Oct. 30 at Campbell Funeral Chapel at 11 a.m.

Joynes leaves behind her husband Jonathan Cooper, parents Jefferson and Lucille Joynes, brother Randy Joynes, children Melvin Joynes, Ron Cooper, and Nikki Hornsby and eight grandchildren. The family did not respond to requests for comment.