Joy Rothschild — 1949-2012; an activist until the end


A life-long advocate for social change, Joy Rothschild never stopped fighting for what she believed in.

In her 63 years she inspired others to be part of the change she sought. She was not one who just talked a good game, but instead spent time and money supporting the issues that were important to her locally and nationally.

Joy passed away Aug. 2 after a courageous battle with cancer.

Joy Rothschild and her dog AJ.

A native San Franciscan, she was born Jan. 13, 1949. Growing up in the Bay Area at a tumultuous time inspired Joy to speak her mind, get involved and become an activist.

In the late 1960s, Joy traveled to New Orleans where she worked for the rights of farm workers alongside Cesar Chavez.

She worked on the campaigns of John Burton, Sala Burton and Dianne Feinstein. One of her proudest accomplishments was working on Feinstein’s 1984 mayoral recall campaign — in which more than 70 percent of the voters said yes to Feinstein.

Shortly after that campaign Joy moved to South Lake Tahoe with the intent of unionizing the culinary workers at the Stateline casinos. While that bid failed, what she gained was a love for Lake Tahoe. She called the area home ever since then.

In 1987, Joy began working as an instructional aide for Lake Tahoe Unified School District. While at Al Tahoe Elementary School she became involved in the classified union and served as its president for several years. In 1989, Joy transferred to South Tahoe Middle School where she worked as a “Challenge” class aide for grades 6-8. These were classes for youths who were smart, but not succeeding in school. Joy connected deeply with youth who were troubled, keeping in touch with many into adulthood.

“She was beloved by the kids for her compassion, humor, wit and kindness. She could get to the toughest kid. And she was so good at it,” Cindy Cowen, a teacher at STMS who worked with Joy, said. “She could make the kids laugh, cry, and be better human beings.”

Later Joy began working for the district’s truancy program and then the McKinney Vento program for homeless students at the district.

Joy and Cowen put together an instructional book titled “It is Our Business” that is used in part today in LTUSD and Alpine County.

She retired from the district in 2003.

Joy’s desire to help troubled youth extended beyond LTUSD. For many years she was a volunteer with Court Appointed Special Advocates. She was also a staff member for CASA El Dorado County.

“Joy was an exceptional advocate for the most troubled youth who needed an honest, straightforward friend and advisor. She formed trusting relationships because she genuinely liked ‘her’ kids. Each youth that was touched by Joy, knew they had a friend for life,” Wendy David, former CASA site manager, said.

Much like there are trail angels for people doing long hikes, Joy took that concept in a different direction. She regularly gave scholarships to Mount Tallac High School students. Not one to want public recognition for her deeds, she would write checks to various organizations that needed help without the direct beneficiaries knowing where the money came from. They include, but are not limited to, Tahoe Magic, Zawadisha Fund, and Ally Club at South Tahoe High School.

“She has been my anonymous Ally donor for the past several years, and it is because of her that I was able to do much of the wonderful work we have with Ally. She is the reason we attended the gay prom, the reason we had snacks each week, and the reason that I felt I was doing the most good possible,” Bridey Heidel, Ally advisor and South Tahoe High School teacher, said. “Joy is also the reason I became a teacher. After seeing me substitute teach one day, she held my face and said, ‘This is what you must do. It’s what you were meant to do.’ I never planned on being a teacher … until that moment.”

She helped women and children locally and afar. She made several excursions out of the country as volunteer-vacations where she worked to improve the lives of women and children in those countries.

Joy participated in every local production of the “Vagina Monologues.” This year she was honored as the Vagina Warrior for her dedication to making the lives of women better.

Joy at times was an active member in the local Democratic Club and always a passionate Democrat.

She loved to hike and cross country ski throughout Lake Tahoe.

Joy is survived by her father, Rocky Rothschild of San Francisco; sister Teri Rothschild of San Francisco; several cousins; and an abundance of friends; and her beloved dog AJ.

A celebration of life will be Aug. 14 at 5pm at the home of Wendy and Kerry David, 1300 Keller Road, South Lake Tahoe. Please bring a favorite dish or bottle of wine to share.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to CASA El Dorado County, 1354 Johnson Blvd., Ste. 2, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150; or South Lake Tahoe Cancer League, 1602 Cherry Hill Circle, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150; or Zawadisha Fund: Micro loans for women, P.O. Box 6602, Tahoe City, CA 96145.






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Comments (17)
  1. scadmin says - Posted: August 4, 2012

    Joy was a fierce advocate for the youth in our community. She was able to see the good in all of the kids she helped, and was able to bring out the best in them. Joy had a wicked sense of humor, She was, generous, loyal and smart. She lead by example rather than being “preachy”. Without a doubt, Tahoe was made a much better place by virtue of her presence here. She will be greatly missed!

  2. Maria Pielaet says - Posted: August 4, 2012

    Joy is one of the kindest spirits I have ever known, and she embodied her name. I will miss her.

  3. David Kelly says - Posted: August 4, 2012

    She will be greatly missed!

  4. JoAnn Conner says - Posted: August 4, 2012

    She was always a fighter for those who needed a champion. I enjoyed her spirited comments and debate, and the positive difference she made in our community. Rest in Peace, Joy.

  5. Ernie Claudio says - Posted: August 4, 2012

    I never heard Joy say a negative work about anyone. She was an inspiration for many.

  6. Virginia Glenn says - Posted: August 4, 2012

    Joy was one of those special people with whom I immediately felt comfortable. She radiated love, even when she was struggling with illness. She spent more of her life giving to others than anyone I’ve ever met. Whether it was to someone close by or far away – it didn’t matter. And she totally enjoyed all of her giving efforts. Giving, helping, sharing, loving – that was Joy. She will be missed. Enjoy your next adventure Joy!

  7. kelley mitchell pedigo says - Posted: August 4, 2012

    Joy, thank you for all that you contributed to our community and for your joyful spirit. You will be missed.

  8. Julie L says - Posted: August 4, 2012

    Joy was fierce and funny and authentic and humble and generous. I will miss her unapologetic wit about the importance of politics and feminism so much.

  9. Tom Wendell says - Posted: August 4, 2012

    I am sad to hear of Joy’s passing. I first met her in 1987 at the Lakeside Nautilus at the Y. I will aways remember her as being the embodiment of her name….Joy….Inspiring others to be part of the change we seek is a trait I try to emulate and practice daily.
    Now rest Joy…your work here will live on.

  10. No Rick says - Posted: August 5, 2012

    Joy, I never thanked you properly for our time together many years ago. Kept meaning to and kept putting it off. I’m sorry for any pain I may have caused you back then, and am extremely saddened and sorry to hear that you have moved on way too soon. I remember I used to joke that “You’re no Joy!” and you would counter that I was “no Rick.” Well, I lied, you were a tremendous joy in my life at a time I needed even a little. I know, too, that you were very important in the lives of many, many others, both personally and professionally. It comes as no surprise to hear how much you affected the lives of those who knew you. I am one.

    Joy, a very belated thank you, and may you rest in peace.
    With love, (No) Rick

  11. Dan W says - Posted: August 6, 2012

    I never would have made it through the 8th grade if not for Joy. I was not one of the troubled teens she helped as part of the Challenge program. My troubles were usually of the mental, rather than academic variety. Joy helped me by just being there to talk to at recess and lunch. I can’t even recall anymore the countless conversations we had over anything that might have been bothering me at the time – whether it was personal or some scholastic policy I didn’t agree with – but I do remember always looking forward to hearing her wisdom on the subject. Can you imagine, a thirteen year old kid actually seeking out the opinions of someone his parent’s age? Joy just had this way of talking to me that made more sense than any of my teachers or principals at the time. Thank you so much, Joy, for making my angsty little life a bit easier. The world has lost a truly wonderful person.

  12. Nick B says - Posted: August 6, 2012

    Joy will truly be missed. She made 6th grade tolerable and is the reason I made it through. She was one of the most wonderful people I have ever met. Rest in Peace Joy.

  13. Douglas Forte says - Posted: August 9, 2012

    I spent 30+ years working in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District as a teacher and an elementary school principal. I met Joy shortly after she began working for the district in the late 80’s. During ensuing years I spent countless hours working and planning strategies with Joy for many of our at-risk students. She had a unique and positive way of dealing with children and adults. Joy was compassionate and caring and had no difficulty in being direct, honest, and straight forward with our families. Joy was there for me whenever I needed her input and assistance. I will always treasure her wittiness and her sense of humor. I will miss her undying commitment in making our community and our world a better place in which to live. The word ‘no’ was never a part of Joy’s ‘can-do’ attitude. She was an inspiration to all who knew her. I believe that Joy’s life ended early on this planet so that she could ‘move on’ and share her love, her expertise, and her unselfish ways. Joy Rothschild was the ULTIMATE TEACHER! I will greatly miss Joy and I will always treasure the friendship we shared. Rest in Peace, my good friend!

  14. justin pesci says - Posted: August 10, 2012

    Joy you’ll be in my.heart forever I sure do miss the big bird story’s

  15. jeastburn says - Posted: August 11, 2012

    Joy, you have always been an inspiration to me simply by living your life and your convictions so passionately and completely. I will miss your commitment to helping others, your compassion, your sense of humor, and your feistiness. You truly made a positive difference in this world. Namaste’ dear and amazing woman.

  16. Nancy Spencer says - Posted: August 14, 2012

    Rest in peace, my friend. I still have totally inappropriate get well cards left….and the everlasting birthday card is still in your possession ! I will miss you- but know you are happy, healthy and “Joy”ful in the next existence .

  17. Deb Vreeland says - Posted: August 15, 2012

    This photograph of Joy will resonate with me forever. The very little time I spent with Joy on the Monologues was a distinct pleasure and sheer Joy. A better spirit than most. You will be remembered by many, including me. xo