Mary Ellen Joynt

Mary Ellen Joynt, née Behrens, passed away at her home in Ann Arbor, Michigan on May 15th, at the age of 79.

Ellen, as she was known to those close to her, grew up in Broadway, Virginia. She excelled as a basketball and field hockey player and played in the band at Broadway High School. In her 1959 high school yearbook, her senior quote was, “Kindness and Love,” which became a theme for her life. She stayed in Virginia to further her education at Lynchburg College and Madison College before moving to Nashville, Tennessee to attend Vanderbilt University and Peabody College, obtaining a degree in sociology and physical education in 1964.

Following a passion for helping others, Ellen moved to Michigan and obtained her certification in physical therapy from the University of Michigan. She then worked as a physical therapist at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor. Following four years at St. Joseph, she became part of the original staff at the University of Michigan’s Parkview rehabilitation clinic where she helped to implement a new rehabilitation program for people with severe brain and spinal cord injury. She went on to complete a Master’s degree in communications (‘75) and PhD in medical education (‘77) from Michigan State University. While at Michigan, she met Dr. Robert Laird Joynt (Larry to most). The couple wed in December of 1974, at which time she became a loving stepmother to Susan, David, and Cathie. She and Larry subsequently had a daughter, Karen, in 1978. In 1984, they welcomed a son, Andrew.

Kind, thoughtful, and warm, Ellen could always be found helping others and taking genuine interest in anyone she met, and as such she formed bonds of friendship with many. She was an unparalleled listener. Her family can recall many occasions upon which a trip to the grocery store or dentist turned into a four-hour affair because she had stopped to listen to someone who needed to talk. She made card-sending into an art form, keeping meticulous lists of birthdays, anniversaries, and other notable occasions. She was also a voracious reader and puzzle-solver, including of word games that befuddled the rest of the family. She continued her athletic prowess throughout her life, predominantly on the tennis courts across Ann Arbor, though also as a volunteer field hockey and softball coach in local leagues and as a driveway basketball aficionado. She was a devoted local and national sports spectator, and her sports trivia knowledge covered 1950s baseball to present-day tennis.

Nothing brought her more joy than her family, particularly her three grandchildren, and she delighted in showering them in hugs, love, chocolate, and books whenever possible.

Predeceased by her parents Carl and Neola Behrens, Ellen is survived by her husband, Larry; as well as her sister, Sara Porter (Bob); brother, David Behrens (Melissa); stepchildren, Susan Aldrich (Blaine), David Joynt, Cathie Joynt (John Young); children, Karen Joynt Maddox (Tom) and Andrew Joynt (Marie); and grandchildren, Miranda Joynt, Rachael Johnson (Ryan), and Donovan Maddox, as well as many much-loved cousins, nieces, and nephews and their families.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating in her memory to Cure PSP at

A celebration of her life will be held at a later date.

For updates and to view some of our favorite pictures of Ellen, visit

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