By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jul 09, 2020 at 6:01 PM

In 2002, OnMilwaukee profiled Joyce Henry and called her Milwaukee’s own Mother Teresa for the work she did with her The Open Gate, Milwaukee's first non-profit transitional living program for the homeless, and as a door minister at St. Benedict the Moor.

Sadly, Henry passed away on Sunday, July 5, at the age of 83.

As a tribute to her grandmother, Henry’s granddaughter Bryanna Henry, shared these words, which we’re honored to, in turn, share with you:

"Joyce dedicated her life to the Milwaukee community, specifically the African American male and homeless community. After serving as a door minister for St. Benedict the Moor Parish for years, she was inspired to do even more to help others find a better life. She saw a humanitarian crisis in Milwaukee, so in 1985 Joyce quit her job, sold her house, and cashed in her life savings to establish Milwaukee's first transitional living center for the homeless, named The Open Gate (The OG). The Open Gate was a social services organization dedicated to helping troubled young men seek a new direction to improve their lives.

"Joyce made it her life’s mission to help all men, taking on many clients that mental health or prison system professionals had deemed unsalvageable, and proving them wrong each time. She treated them as equals and became a friend and a mother figure. She provided a place to live, but more than that, she helped them realize a vision for their future, something that they could strive for. For many men of all races, religions, ages, Joyce provided what was sometimes the first opportunity to do something positive in their lives. Joyce believed that black lives matter and was proving it day after day 35 years ago.

"Joyce/The Open Gate purchased homes and apartment buildings throughout Milwaukee;
including properties on 12th street, 761 N. 29th St., and 136 W. Meinecke Ave. to house, what came to be, thousands of Milwaukeans throughout The OG’s existence. She supported herself the way OG clients did, through donated food and clothing and by residing in OG housing. The OG didn't have a 401K or retirement plan. In fact, at her death, Joyce didn't have a dime to her name, but she was never worried because she always said, "God will take care of me". Joyce Henry may be officially known as the Founder and Executive Director of the OG, but to many, she is a friend and an angel, and someone who helped all her clients identify a dream that would help them on their path to success."

A visitation, followed by a private memorial service honoring Joyce Henry is set for Sunday, July 12, from 1 until 3 p.m. at Schaff Funeral Home, 5920 W. Lincoln Ave. All are welcome but the the number of people permitted inside at the same time is limited. All are asked to social distance and are encouraged to wear masks.

Contributions to St. Benedict the Moor Parish at stbensparishmilwaukee.org in Joyce's honor are welcomed, as are items to be donated to the homeless which will be distributed throughout the streets of Milwaukee.

"Please help us honor a woman who dedicated her entire life for our community," says Bryanna.

Deepest condolences to Bryanna and all of Joyce Henry’s family and friends and the many people whose lives she touched.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.