Walking through a North Columbus residence, Joyce Hayes Walker pointed out antique items that filled the home with an interest and enthusiasm typically reserved for people new to their craft.
“Can you imagine? Two men cutting trees out here like that and building a house?” she asked.
The two-man saw hangs on the wall of a home that Walker is in the process of preparing for an estate sale, one of many that she has coordinated in her 16 years in the field.
“I love doing estate sales, because I love antiques and old things and collectibles. Even if I don’t know the person before I have a sale, I feel like I know them once I get into the sale,” she said. “By the time it’s over, I know that person really well because I can see what they collected. I can tell their taste.”
In addition to estate sales, Walker is a real estate agent and broker. She’s spent more than 30 years in education. She used to own an antique shop. And somewhere along the way, she was also named an honorary commander of the Columbus Air Force Base.
Walker wears many hats, but all her jobs have a simple and singular passion in common: people.
“I’m a people person. I enjoy all people. That’s … I don’t know, I just grew up that way,” Walker said. “We’re all alike in God’s eyes. So, you look at somebody’s heart and you learn from their experiences and you appreciate the differences.”
Walker was born in New Orleans before moving to Shuqualak then Macon, where she graduated from Noxubee County High School. Walker married her high school sweetheart, Ricky, who is an attorney.
She has earned four degrees, including a PhD from Mississippi State University. She taught business classes in Lowndes County as well as business and computer courses at East Mississippi Community College before moving into administration and becoming the vice president of academics for East Mississippi Community College.
As vice president of academics she was responsible for all academic students and teachers across four campuses, including CAFB. It is because of her impact on CAFB that she was designated an honorary commander.
“I always loved my students,” she said. “And I really feel like I made a difference in their lives.”
She retired from EMCC in 2004 and that is where her journey into real estate and estate sales really began, with fulfilling a lifelong dream and opening an antique shop.
“I opened a little antique shop in Macon in the old Merchants and Farmers Bank building,” she said. “Then, I had thyroid cancer, so I closed that. And as I was taking treatments and stuff, I was bored out of my mind. And a friend of mine had been encouraging me to renew my real estate license. So I studied while I was home and renewed my real estate license. Then in a year I got my broker’s license, so I’m actually a real estate broker too. That’s kind of how the estate sales started.”
Estate sales stand at the intersection of Walker’s love for antiques and her real estate expertise. As she was selling houses, people would sometimes also want to liquidate the contents. The creation of Walker Estate Sales in addition to her real estate business, Southern Land and Home, was a natural next step.
The impact that Walker has on the lives of her clients often goes deeper than the items she’s helping them liquidate. Her daughters, Carol Nance of Saltillo and Lorraine Walker of Starkville, often say she does a lot of hand-holding.
“When we have an estate sale, almost always, for whatever reason — they’re moving, they’re going to assisted living or nursing homes, or somebody’s died — it’s a traumatic thing that they’re going through emotionally,” Joyce said. “This may sound cheesy, but it’s the absolute truth: one of the main reasons I do it is because I know I help people.”
Joyce explained that treating everyone and every one of their things with the utmost care and respect is paramount.
“If it was important to your loved one, and it was something that they enjoyed, it’s important to us, and we treat everybody’s things with respect and care. I don’t care if it cost $1 or if it cost $500,” she said. “Because these are things that somebody loved. So I’ve always tried to make sure that my clients understand how I feel about stuff like that.”
Aside from navigating the emotions that come with an estate sale, Joyce said the process is more work than most people realize. Entire housefulls of items have to be sorted and categorized, sometimes appraised. Some are photographed for advertisement online. Everything has to be priced and kept track of, in-line with her strict bookkeeping system.
Between real estate, estate sales and still sometimes teaching online courses, she keeps quite busy, but loves every minute of it.
“I get the enjoyment of just looking at things and old things. And appreciation of different people, because I’ve had estate sales from people of all walks of life,” she said. “And I have appreciated everything I’ve seen. It may be things that maybe are not to my taste, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not important or something good.”