Joyce Vanaman, a beloved reporter who covered Millville for decades, knew everyone and was known for community stories with a positive bent, has died. She was 89.
Vanaman died Thursday at Inspira Medical Center Vineland. Her husband, Harold, known as “Bud,” died many years ago, and her son David died in 2008.
Longtime Press writer Martin DeAngelis, of Ventnor, joined the paper’s Cumberland County bureau in 1985 and knew Vanaman for years.
“You know the legend. She worked in her kitchen and cranked out lemon squares as she was cranking out five stories a day,” said DeAngelis, who visited her at the hospital a few days ago. “She was not the hard-bitten, hard-nosed reporter. She cared about and knew the people as people. They weren’t just a subject in a news story.”
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“She was beloved and thought to be the best reporter ever,” retired Superior Court Judge W.L. Forester wrote in an email to The Press.
The Greater Millville Chamber of Commerce sent an email to its members Friday in honor of Vanaman, calling her “a proud citizen of Millville, a woman who passionately loved her hometown.”
“She was truly a legend in her field,” the email said.
Longtime Press reporter Diane D’Amico, who is now director of news and media relations at Stockton University, started with The Press in the Cumberland bureau in 1973.
“Joyce was already an institution in Millville,” said D’Amico. Vanaman was known for filing more stories per day than any other reporter, she said. “When she retired (in 2005), we joked she had to retire, because she had interviewed every person in Millville. There was no one left.”
Vanaman always covered the announcement for Millville Citizen of the Year, but in 1991 she was the nominee. To keep it a secret, D’Amico worked with the city to have Vanaman write about a decoy candidate.
Vanaman went to the event and was surprised because she had already written a story on someone else. Her first words after they called her name were, “I have to call my editor, my story is all wrong,” D’Amico said.
Her nickname was “The Velvet Steamroller,” said writer Eileen Tedesco Bennett, of Maurice River Township. She said Vanaman was her mentor, as she was for so many other reporters over the years.
“She was sweet but tough,” Bennett said of the woman she’s known since 1975. “She was so polite, I never heard her lose her temper or say a mean word to anyone.”
Freeholder Jim Quinn, president of Quinn Broadcasting and former Millville mayor, said his father would show up at city meetings to give officials a hard time.
Joyce told him to stop going to meetings after Quinn became mayor in 1997.
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“He listened to her,” Quinn said.
She knew everybody, DeAngelis said.
The woman at the hospital visitors’ desk knew Vanaman’s room number by heart when he visited recently, he said.
“She had visitors from New York, Toronto, Millville and Ventnor, all in the room at the same time,” said DeAngelis. “She was very much herself.”
He said Vanaman was talking to a former Press co-worker who now lives in Poughkeepsie, New York.
“In just using first names they were talking about people they had known 12-15 years ago, and Joyce was updating her on who was doing what,” said DeAngelis. “It was pretty amazing. She was joking with me. I was teasing her, and she was giving it right back.”
Staff Writer Amanda Auble contributed to this report.