Joyce Amacher was a Dunwoody visionary

Joe Parker

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A stalwart in Dunwoody history, Joyce Amacher, has died at age 84. Mrs. Amacher’s footprints are in just about every part of the city – from the Dunwoody Farmhouse, the wooded median on Ashford Dunwoody Road, the spring festival called Lemonade Days and the mammoth effort to re-plant the city after the tornado of 1998.

Vera Joyce McClellan Amacher died peacefully Sunday at her Dunwoody home, a year after doctors told her pancreatic cancer had returned. She also suffered from dementia.

The native Atlantan was born in 1932 in Atlanta and married Bill Amacher in 1965. She worked with him in his construction and real estate ventures, but was known for her community efforts.

As Dunwoody grew from farmland to a peaceful bedroom suburb to the large edge city that included Perimeter Center, Amacher’s influence was felt through the Dunwoody Homeowners’ Association and its spin off, the Dunwoody Preservation Trust.

When Perimeter Mall was being developed, according to longtime friend Bill Robinson, Amacher approached the developers with her plans to place a median in the expanded Ashford Dunwoody Road and plant trees there. Most of them stand today in what has become a major part of metro Atlanta.

Her best known effort was the long campaign to Save the Dunwoody Farmhouse. With partner Lynne Byrd, Amacher led the Dunwoody Preservation Trust in community-wide fundraising to preserve the Cheek-Spruill Farmhouse at Mt. Vernon and Chamblee Dunwoody Roads.

The effort resulted in enough money to save the house from commercial development and a deal was cut with a shopping center developer to give up the Cheek-Spruill barn, but build a small shopping center around the house itself. The farmhouse is now the chief landmark of residential Dunwoody and a reminder of its rural past less than 100 years ago.

When a devastating tornado struck Dunwoody in April 1998, damaging 3000 homes and destroying nearly 1000, Amacher went into action. She formed an organization she called Replant the Dunwoody Forest. Hers was not to be a minor beautification project.

More than 25,000 trees were distributed and planted throughout the city. Brook Run Park became a major distribution center for trucks, trees, seedlings and volunteers. The operation, with donations cajoled by Amacher from throughout the state, became a sight-seeing event. One newspaperman wrote that Amacher and Byrd could run just about any Fortune 500 company.

“No one has done more for Dunwoody than Joyce Amacher,” said state Rep. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody).

Mayor Denis Shortal stressed her love of flowers and her two terms as president of the Dunwoody Garden Club.

“If she saw a bare space of land, she would start to plant flowers there,” he said.

To carry on the fund-raising, Amacher and her committee decided to “make lemons out of lemonade.” What is now the four-day festival and carnival in Brook Run Park began as a modest 5k-run and an afternoon of crafts and sweet snacks.

The proceeds from Lemonade Days now support the Farmhouse, the renovation of the Donaldson-Bannister Farmhouse at Chamblee Dunwoody and Vermack Roads and many smaller events from lectures to the placing of three Dunwoody homes on the National Register of Historic Places.

Until recent years, Amacher’s sense of Dunwoody’s heritage was a resource to the work of the Homeowners’ Association.

Amacher is survived by her husband, sister Brenda Hardrick, daughters Zerah Wilson and Zelda Patrick and son Zachery. She leaves six grandchildren and a sister-in-law, Ramona Amacher, and many nieces and nephews.

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A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 4, at 10:30 a.m. in the sanctuary of Dunwoody United Methodist Church, with a reception following in the Fellowship Hall.

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