Curt Joyce died doing what he loved, running a river, living life to the fullest.
Joyce, a former Roanoker who lived in Portland, Ore., died Tuesday while kayaking on the Colorado River inside Grand Canyon National Park.
Joyce, who was 31, was a world-class kayaker and a rock climber who had traveled the world to ride rapids. He had lived in Oregon for about five years and had married recently.
“He had every guy’s dream life,” said his father, Jim Joyce.
Jim Joyce said his son always managed to have jobs that allowed flexibility to take time off for long kayak trips. He was on a 12-day, self-supported trip with eight other kayakers when he died.
Park rangers said that Joyce was discovered capsized and unresponsive in his kayak Tuesday night near the Lower Whitmore camp in the Grand Canyon. Members of the kayaking group unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate Joyce with CPR. They called rescuers with a satellite phone at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Joyce was a graduate of Patrick Henry High School and James Madison University. He played baseball in high school, playing second base and batting in the leadoff position.
Jim Joyce fostered a love of outdoors in his son. He and Curt often went backpacking in the wilderness near Mount Rogers.
“Curt and I always did a January full moon [backpacking] trip,” Jim Joyce said. The two “never saw anyone else.”
Curt’s real love was being on a river. As a teenager, he kayaked in the Bottom Creek Gorge near Bent Mountain. He worked at Blue Ridge Outdoors and at Orvis, where he got all his fly-fishing gear.
After college, Joyce worked for a company in the Washington, D.C., area that did GIS mapping for construction, engineering and environmental projects. In his free time, he kayaked Great Falls on the Potomac River.
“He quit that job so he would have more time to go kayaking,” his father said, “but he was so good at his job, the company hired him as a contractor. He would work for three months, then make enough money to go kayaking.”
Joyce kayaked in New Zealand, Peru and other countries. He had been a river guide since 2009 for Wet Planet Whitewater Center in Husum, Wash. He also worked as an Airborne Remote Sensing Technician for Quantum Spatial, a Portland company that gathers land data and provides mapping for engineering and environmental projects.
This week, Joyce and his fellow kayakers were nearing the end of the trip when they arrived at Lower Whitmore Rapid, a low-class rapid. The group was 10 miles below Lava Falls, perhaps the most difficult rapid on the river in the Canyon.
Joyce and his wife, Melissa, had been married just six months. On the occasion of their six-month anniversary on March 7, Melissa Joyce posted a blog item with the headline, “True Love Exists.” The post included this description of her husband:
“He can lead us in prayer, sew my clothes that need mending, cook me an awesome veggie meal, and clean the house to a shine. He can do all of these things while brewing a batch of [b]eer and Kombucha, and while making it look easy to go out and kayak a gnarly class 5 section of river.”
The post ended with this paragraph:
“True love exists. It is quiet and unassuming. It is leadership and communication. True love is having so much respect for the other person that it shows every single time you interact. Happy six months baby, here’s looking to 6 months times infinity.”
The Associated Press contributed information for this report.