Remembering a local legend

Pictures With Sterling

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The Beaches lost one of its biggest legends recently. For the past quarter century no one has defined our area more than Sterling Joyce. For as long as many can remember, he has been the unofficial “Mayor of the Beaches.”

People were drawn to the man. When he had an event, they came, bearing gifts for the unfortunate. They came hoping to get their picture taken with the living legend. Hipsters jostled for position. Pretty girls lined up for the opportunity. There were always pretty girls. Sometimes it was fun just to stand back and watch them pose.

Getting your picture taken with Sterling has been a literal rite of passage for thousands of beach residents for decades. Everyone remembers their first time. “It felt like I had arrived,” one prominent resident commented.  Few missed the opportunity.

No one can say for sure how many thousands of photos were taken of Sterling. He is probably the most photographed person in Jacksonville. The advent of social media and cell phones created a frenzied demand for that coveted picture. Sterling patiently posed with each of us in turn. He was truly a gentleman.

Sterling used his celebrity for good. He came from a modest background. He remembered when times were hard. Every event benefited those who were less fortunate. Getting Christmas presents into the hands of children who might otherwise get nothing was a special passion.

When we were struggling to erect a monument to 19 heroes who died by an act of war right off our coast, he got involved. “I like what you are doing, young man,” he told me. He often called people young man. The day of the big event dawned dark and cold and rainy and wet. No one wanted to come. But they came anyway because Sterling was going to be there.

Jimbo Stockton says Sterling Joyce is in a better place, that he is “dancing with Jesus.” I like that image. Sterling loved to dance. But it makes me wonder; do they have selfies in Heaven? It’s comforting to imagine, but it feels a little heretical. But if they have them there, like they do here, I hope my Mom and Dad get one with Sterling.

[READ MORE: The community turns out to remember a local legend. Click here.]

Scott A. Grant is a local author and frequent contributor to the Recorder.

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