Seldom has one woman mothered so many children but there are few women like 77 year old Joyce Dumont, a Native American of the Chippewa Tribe.
To become a mother to 69 children, Joyce, who lives in rural North Dakota, gave birth to six children, added five step-children, adopted 11 more children, foster parented dozens more children and added others that moved in because they had no other place to go.
Despite being in their late 70’s, she and her husband Buddy have three adopted children ages 7 through 10. They also have a chubby Chihuahua named Peewee.
Social workers have routinely called on the Dumonts to take foster children. “Everybody knew they could count on Joyce,” Andrea Olson of the AASK Adoption Program told The Wall Street Journal in a story about Joyce.
With so many children and responsibilities, is Joyce a strict disciplinarian?
No, for in raising children, Joyce teaches by example. Years ago when a daughter got caught sneaking out of junior high school, Joyce took her by the hand and silently brought her back to school. There she sat next to her daughter all through typing class.
It was so embarrassing and awkward, “I never skipped school again,” the daughter, Marilyn Ruberry told The Wall Street Journal. Today Ms. Ruberry is a bookkeeper in Alberta, Canada.
When motherhood began for Joyce nearly 60 years ago, no-one could have imagined she would have so many children. Shortly after graduating from high school, at 18 she got married and she and her first husband eventually had six children.
But when he disappeared for a few days, upon his return he discovered Joyce had had their tiny family home moved, leaving only the front steps where their home had been. She divorced him soon after.
In the late 1960’s to support her large family, Joyce worked nights as a restaurant cook and days as a teacher’s aide. While she was away, her eldest son Rocky Davis took care of his sisters and brothers.
Meanwhile as if her schedule weren't busy enough, Joyce received a state grant to pay for nursing school so she could build a more prosperous career.
About this time, she also met a divorced truck driver, Jim Fandrick, who was raising two children. Joyce didn’t know if he was the man for her until he insisted that during their dates, they include the kids.
Joyce and Jim married in 1970 and remained married for 32 years until he died of cancer in 2002.
The following year, Joyce married Buddy Dumont, who had three children and who was caring for a grandchild.
Today, Joyce and Buddy have help running their home from 50 year old Lucille Vivier, an English teacher and a poet.
“I’m child No. 23,” Ms. Vivier told The Wall Street Journal. 36 years ago when she was 14, Ms. Vivier fled a troubled home to move in with Joyce and her long-time husband Jim.
In 2011, at the age of 75, Joyce retired from her nursing career. She and Buddy support their family with their Social Security checks, and from Medicaid coverage for their three most recently adopted children.
Living in a three bedroom one story beige home, the couple have two beds set-up in their living room and more beds set-up in the basement to accommodate drop-ins and visitors.
To keep the overhead low, Joyce has no cell-phone, no computer and she drives a 1995 Buick. To ease the budgetary pressures, some of the grown children drop off household supplies.
Yet there is always enough money to feed, clothe and care for everyone and at holiday time in a pot-luck, to welcome as many as 40 people in a joyous celebration of life.
Many grandparents are empty nesters with an occasional family visit or phone call. Not Joyce.
“I don’t know what I’d do without kids,” Joyce told The Wall Street Journal. “Maybe I’m afraid.” Which is easy to understand for she has loved and given a home to so many children for nearly 60 years and has received their love in return.
These children have been Joyce’s purpose in life, and there is no greater purpose than loving and caring for the well-being of children.