Phoenix-area 'Huggin' Grandma' shares inspiring memoir

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

The holidays can be a tough time for people who are alone or maybe lost a loved one. 

A valley woman who calls herself the ‘Huggin' Grandma’ has had her share of loss and heartache over the years. 
 
Instead of letting it define her, she’s found a way to find love in what’s left, and embrace every single day. 

83 year- old Joyce Galewick has a story to tell.

“I think everyone has an amazing life. What made mine a little different is, I had so many ups & downs. Some people don’t get quite as many downs. But the thing about life is, you have to learn to get back up," Galewick said.

“My first husband I lost, we were only married seven months.”

“He was the real true love of my life,” Galewick said.

Joyce didn’t give up on love after that.

“Love is the glue that holds it all together,” she said. 

It’s what helped heal her heart and re-marry. 

"We traveled all over the country, lived in a motor home for 10 years and traveled & he gave art classes," she said.

It’s what kept her going when she lost her daughter Debbie to cancer.

“She was given three weeks to live but she made it 11 months,” Galewick said. 

And it’s what kept her from breaking, when she & her oldest daughter Donna, got diagnosed a year later.

“So I had Cancer at the same time. I had colon- she had lung, we did our Chemo together,” she said.

“I would have gladly given my life for her. But we don’t get that choice in life. So I thought, well, there must be a reason I’m here." 

“Then my artist husband had a stroke,” Galewick said.

She calls her youngest daughter Doreen, her angel on earth, because as much as you want to be alone in your grief, her daily calls were a lifeline.

“My daughter said, ‘You’ve lost two girls. You’ve lost two husbands. You didn’t fall apart!” Galewick said.

"No matter how dark life seems, there’s ALWAYS hope!

Joyce says there are no coincidences in life. 

She met her current husband George, on a telemarketing call. 

“I said would you like to come in for a free hearing test? 
He said well I already have a hearing aid.'
I said, ‘What about your wife?’ 
He said, ‘Well, I lost her two years ago.” 
I said, ‘Well, I just lost my husband.’ 
So we met for coffee in September, and were married, Valentine’s day!” Galewick said.

That was 14 years ago. 

Joyce says too many people go through life, perfectly content, just being “fine.” 

“I think that people grow older by sitting, waiting to grow old!” she said.

And while loving deeply can hurt you deeply, Joyce says she would never trade the passion and fire, laughter and lessons learned, from each loss. 

“We only get one life! We better make it the best we can!” Galewick said. 

Her mission to share that wisdom, inspired her memoir, Dance Till the Music Stops

Her 500 page handwritten manuscript, actually sat under a desk for five years, until a friend found her help to get it  typed up so she could get it published this fall.

“I finally felt I kept my promise to my girls,”  Galewick said. 

Sharing her stories and their stories to keep their memory alive, she also hopes to just maybe, inspire others to make the most of each day. 

"Dance 'till the music stops- as long as we wake up, we have a day! No matter what happened yesterday, today is a brand new one," Galewick said. 

Joyce says, whatever your passion is, find it, live it, then share your story!

You can find her book at Barnes & Noble, the Fort McDowell casino gift shop, or on Amazon

And if you’d like to meet her yourself, and maybe get a hug or some personal advice from the 'Huggin' Grandma,' she will have a booth at the Mesa Market Place Swap Meet December 30 from 8am to 4pm, space C-124. 

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Nicole CritesNicole Crites anchors "Good Evening Arizona" weeknights 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on 3TV with Brandon Lee.

Click to learn more about Nicole.

Nicole Crites

The two- time Emmy award winner has been telling stories about Valley newsmakers and trends for more than a decade. Before joining 3TV's "Good Evening Arizona" team, she was the morning news anchor at KPHO-TV in Phoenix.

Nicole loves meeting new people every day and finding ways to bring context to news unfolding in our community and our world.

A wife and mother of two little ones, Nicole is always exploring Arizona to uncover exciting adventures to share. She grew up in a big family, one of six kids in Tucson.

She graduated from the University of Arizona. Work and early internships took her from Manhattan to Spokane, WA, back to Arizona, where she and her high school sweetheart settled to start a family.

Nicole loves to read and keep busy with community service and crafts, like quilting baby blankets, something her mom taught her in elementary school.  

Nicole's passion for storytelling and helping others is why she got into journalism.

She won an Emmy for her field anchoring of the deadly Tucson shooting and assassination attempt of then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and another for her KPHO "Keeping the Promise" series on military struggles and success profiles.

She is an active board member for the nonprofit, Military Assistance Mission, supporting our Arizona military, their families and wounded warriors.

She believes everyone has a story and says the most interesting people she has interviewed weren't the actors or politicians who've been guests on the show over the years, but the "ordinary" people you'd never guess have overcome extreme odds and are doing extraordinary things every day

If you have a story you’d like to share with Nicole, click here to email her.

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