Stanley Historian Retires with Recognition

Courtesy of The Gaston Gazette

Pictured left to right are William Carangelo, Joyce Joy Handsel, Ruth Campbell Wood and Freida Long Robinson. Picture taken at Brevard Station Museum Genealogy Research Library in Stanley.

At the monthly meeting of the Stanley Town Council on April 4, 2016, Joyce Handsel received a proclamation read by Stanley Mayor, Andrew Quinley, that commemorated her twenty-five years of community service as a founding officer and Director of the Brevard Station Museum. The Board of Directors of the Museum honored her with a reception following the meeting.

Joyce Handsel retired as director of the Museum on March 31st. For a quarter-century, Joyce Handsel has been historian, genealogist, administrator, curator, collector, director of volunteers and chief fundraiser for the Museum. Joyce has never accepted a penny for all her outstanding efforts to preserve the history of the Town of Stanley. Joyce has welcomed visitors from many other states and countries, all expressing their admiration of the Brevard Station Museum.

Joyce Joy Handsel was born in New York but her family moved back to Stanley when she was young, and she graduated from Stanley High School in the 1950’s. Joyce Handsel is married to Charlie Handsel, a Stanley High School sports legend, and they have two daughters, Lisa Carpenter and Amanda Whalley, and four grandchildren. Joyce worked in the offices at Smyre Manufacturing, Talon Manufacturing and at the Retail Credit Office in Gastonia.

Her abiding interest has always been history and genealogy, and Joyce wrote and published The Handsel Family Heritage in 1985. It has been said that Joyce held the history of Stanley not only in her head, but in her heart. In the late 1980’s, when the Stanley Historical Society decided to write the history of Stanley, many people brought artifacts to the group to be identified and stored. In 1991, the Coal and Fuel Oil building next to the railroad tracks was secured to store these items. Joyce Handsel and the late Sarah Grissop volunteered to operate this as the Brevard Station Museum. Prior to 1879, the town of Stanley was known as Brevard Station. In the beginning, the Museum received annual financial support from the Town of Stanley and it has been most appreciated by the citizens of Stanley.

In 1999, Joyce wrote and edited the book of Stanley history using information compiled by members of the Stanley Historical Society, Echoes and Images of Two Centuries, 1750-1950. This 500-page volume was illustrated by Stanley artist and historian Ruth Wood. All proceeds from the book were donated to the Museum. Copies are still available for purchase at the Museum along with Echoes and Images from Magnolia Country Cooks with favorite recipes of this area.

By 2004, the museum outgrew the small building and relocated to the present location at 112 S. Main Street in downtown Stanley. The Museum has sports trophies from the old Stanley High School on display and a huge collection of sports photographs and memorabilia. Many items and photographs were donated by local businesses such as J. P. Stevens, Talon Zipper Co. and Gaston County Dying Machine Company. There is a Genealogy Library with family histories, photos and scrapbooks. A large area is devoted to military service. Many outstanding Stanley people from past and present are featured in video displays. Historic homes are shown on an interactive map. The Museum regularly holds special evening events with guest speakers, such as Dr. Richard Rankin, Terry Waldrop, NC Rep. John Torbett and Rudolph Young. Joyce Handsel had the help of Ruth Wood for fifteen years as a full-time volunteer at the Museum maintaining these priceless items. The late Ron and Katherine Harper were so impressed with the Museum and that they donated funds in 2011 for new display furnishings plus a Smart Board. After these renovations were completed in 2012, Congressman Patrick McHenry said this was one of the best local museum he has ever seen. Representative John Torbett is an ardent supporter of the work of Joyce Handsel and the Museum, and enabled the Museum to receive a one-time grant from the state of North Carolina. Admission to the museum is free, but the museum is supported by memberships and donations. There are many opportunities to volunteer.

 In 2015, Joyce Handsel, Ruth Wood and Pat C. Smith began work on a book entitled Stanley that will be a volume in the popular “Images of America” series published by Arcadia. It will be available in the Fall of 2016. This book illustrates the history of Stanley by using historical and current photos that include over 600 Stanley people. All proceeds from this new book will be donated to the Museum.

In recent years, the Museum had been open during two weekdays, but will now be open on Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm. Visits to the Museum may be arranged at other times with advance appointment by calling Brevard Station at 704 263 9801, email Please visit the website