Joyce Amacher: Dunwoody’s quintessential southern lady. I’m pretty sure if you squint in certain light you can actually see tiny stars trailed by sparkling silver dust flying out of Joyce Amacher’s head.
Those are ideas. And she has had a bazillion of them. Really good ideas. And it’s nearly that many that she’s made come true.
Building a better community has been the subject of her quests. And best of all: Dunwoody — where she has lived for 60 years — has been, and continues to be, the beneficiary of her efforts.
On Saturday morning, friends and family gathered to celebrate her when the Dunwoody Garden Club dedicated the first park bench at the entrance to Brook Run to Joyce Amacher. Joyce has been a long-time member and two-time president of the organization that is responsible for the lovely new landscaping at the park entrance, adjacent to the bench.
Joyce and I have been friends for 17 years. I think of her every time I drive down Scenic Highway in Snellville or that never-ending and unfortunate road that connects the Windy Hill area to west, west Cobb. Dunwoody doesn’t have any cluttered, unsightly roads like that and it’s because of Joyce.
When the bucolic Dunwoody, where Joyce and husband Bill raised their three children, readied for development back in the ‘70s, it was Joyce who marched to developers of Perimeter Mall and Ashford Dunwoody Road to let them know (and I’m paraphrasing): “We’ll take your development, but we are going to need a center island all along Ashford Dunwoody Road. And we want them filled with flowers and mature trees with lots of swaying branches.”
Take note of how important those center islands and beautiful trees with swaying branches are the next time you drive Ashford Dunwoody Road.
It was Joyce Amacher and her long-time sidekick Lynne Byrd (they are also co-inlaws; Joyce’s daughter and Lynne’s son) that saved the Cheek-Spruill Farmhouse from demolition and made it Dunwoody’s signature symbol.
The pair formed the Dunwoody Preservation Trust in 1994 when, without warning, two of Dunwoody’s three railroad section houses were leveled to make way for a fast food restaurant. The next year, the circa 1906 Farmhouse on the corner of Mt. Vernon and Chamblee Dunwoody roads was put up for sale. The property’s owners, Hugh and Edwin Spruill, agreed to give Joyce and Lynne an opportunity to find a preservation buyer for the $2.5 million property, but when they were unable to do so, they set out to raise the money themselves.
An all-out “Save the Farmhouse” campaign included a penny drive among the local elementary schools, collection jars in local stores and restaurants, corporate and commmunity donations, t-shirt sales, a “hug the house” party and more.
The efforts raised an impressive $100,000, but a far cry from the $2.5 million price tag.
Undaunted, Joyce and Lynne continued toward their quest to save the farm. Their efforts caught the attention of Guardian Savings and Loan who agreed to purchase the property, but deed one-half acre including the Farmhouse and two outparcels — a chicken house and a smoke house — back to the Dunwoody Preservation Trust and thus, the Dunwoody community.
Joyce and Lynne also co-wrote Dunwoody’s history book, “The Story of Dunwoody: 1821-2001.”
When a tornado destroyed hundreds of Dunwoody homes and took down 200,000 trees from the forested Dunwoody neighborhoods in April of 1998, it was Joyce Amacher who stepped to the plate and formed the “Replant the Dunwoody Forest” initiative.
She successfully, and practically single-handedly, coordinated the replanting of 20,000 trees back into the community — most of which were huge, mature trees that required heavy equipment for digging proper holes and moving the trees into place — via donations, grants and her convincing, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer ways, and all at no cost to the homeowners that agreed to take care of them.
She’s been the force behind dozens of fashion shows — coordinating, modeling, commentating, or all three — as well as fundraisers, beautification efforts (most of Dunwoody’s public area daffodils are thanks in part to Joyce’s efforts), school functions and more.
She has had her eyes on the Brook Run Theater for several years and is joining the current efforts to save and redevelop it into a community facility for theater and arts.
“I didn’t do it all by myself,” said the woman with big ideas and the tenacity to make them come true. “I think we all created Dunwoody.”
“Besides,” she added when presented with a host of speakers tauting her many accomplishments. “I thought that was what you’re supposed to do!”
Perhaps that’s true Joyce. But you raised the bar to a whole new level and your community is grateful, indeed.