In a small room of a farmhouse outside of Ithaca, NY on the top of Snyder Hill, Esther Joyce Fremont was born to Jesse and Bessie Sears on June 8, 1932. She would be one of seven children born in that family and spent the early days of her childhood helping with the work on their farm and going to school just up the road in a one room schoolhouse as it was in those days. Her mother named her Esther but her oldest brother, Carl, named her Joyce and that’s the name so many came to know her by throughout her life.
Joyce and her mother were very close. She heard many Bible stories and beautiful poems from her mother while growing up. It was a foundation that led Joyce to give her heart to Jesus at the age of eight while under the ministry of Rev. Frank Steiger at Snyder Hill Baptist church. As a teenager, she attended a Christian Camp one summer in Canandaigua, NY where under the ministry of William Kuhnle her heart began to stir for a life of ministry in missions.
After finishing high school in Ithaca, Joyce began college years at Baptist Bible Seminary in Johnson City, NY where she met a gifted pianist, Merle Buckingham who had also committed his life to ministry as a missionary. They were married on June 11, 1955 and applied to Association of Baptists for World Evangelism as candidate missionaries to the Philippines. They traveled to the Philippines in 1960 along with their two children, David and Laura. Their place of ministry in church planting was located on the island of Palawan. They served there until 1968 when Merle was fatally injured in a small plane crash. Leaving Palawan, Joyce then finished their four year term by teaching Bible Survey and Music for one year to the national students of Baptist Bible Seminary and Institute in TayTay, Rizal, Philippines.
Joyce returned to the States permanently with her three children, David, Laura and Keith in 1972 and was remarried to Howard J. Bergmann in July of that year. She became a member of Elma Baptist Church and participated in various ministry opportunities throughout the years. Her husband Howard passed away in September of 1998 and Joyce was once again a widow. She began a ministry to widows in 2000 through her church in Elma meeting with over 20 widows once a month. The course that she was teaching was Wisdom for Widows.
The next year, she had some communication with Carson Fremont who had recently lost his wife, Darlene to cancer. They had also been missionaries in the 1960’s with ABWE serving in Hong Kong. As it turned out, the Lord led in the development of a new relationship with Carson. He proposed to Joyce on April 15, 2002 and they were married on May 17, 2002 at Elma Baptist Church. They made Dayton, OH their home base while continuing to travel to the Far East and to Guam in various ministry capacities including radio broadcasts on the subject of marriage and the family.
In November of 2015, Joyce again became a widow with Carson’s passing. She then relocated to Virginia to spend the remainder of her days with her daughter, Laura and her husband, George Nail. After an 8 year battle with vascular dementia, Joyce went home to be with the Lord on January 18, 2023.
Joyce led a very full life and touched the hearts of anyone that crossed her path with her love and concern for each and every one. Through it all, she lived her love for her Savior in all her ways.
Her favorite verse that she often shared was Proverbs 3:5&6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths.”
In a Bible she gave to one of her children years ago she inscribed these words:
Only one life
Twill soon be past
Only what’s done for Christ
Joyce is survived by her three children David, Laura and Keith Buckingham. She has 7 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. She also has 6 step children, 16 step grand children and 15 step great grand children through her marriages to Howard Bergmann and Carson Fremont.
There will be a family burial service on Friday May 5th at Snyder Hill Cemetery in Dryden NY.
We will then celebrate Joyce’s life and home going with a memorial service and reception following, held at 2:00 PM Saturday May 6th at Elma Baptist Church 1301 Bowen Rd, Elma, NY 14059.
Flowers can be sent to:
Elma Baptist Church
1301 Bowen Rd, Elma, NY 14059
Phone: (716) 217- 0603