Jessie Joy (1924–1984) met Willard (Bill) Neeley (1924–1970) at The Art Students League in New York after High School. They decided to get married, but wanted to wait until the Second World War ended, as Bill had been inducted into the U.S. Army Air Force in 1943. They were married in March 1946.
Jessie’s father, James Joy, offered the couple $1000, for either a wedding ring or to use in founding a business. They chose to found Neeley Associates Inc., an art agency, in 1946. Two other artists, Mac Conner and Bill Graveline, became partners.
Jessie acted as office manager, and was also one of the “associate” illustrators, where she used her maiden name of Jessie Joy professionally. Bill acted as the initial salesman and later sales manager.
In the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, Joy created illustrations for magazines and books for Business Week, Bantam Books, The Sunday Mirror Magazine, The American Weekly, Scott, Foresman & Co., Scholastic Books, Love Short Stories, and The Star Weekly (a Toronto newspaper weekend magazine).
During this same period, Joy produced a large body of work for print advertising as well, working for such clients as Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble, Lincoln Mercury, Decca Records, Goodyear, Pan American – Grace Airways, The Red Cross, Brooklyn Union Gas, Gerber’s Baby Foods, Ira Haupt & Co. Insurance, St. Regis, Ford, Travelers Insurance, and Johns-Manville. She also worked for The Advertising Council’s “A Public Service Project”, The United States Air Force / Civil Defense and The United States Government Printing Office. Much of her advertising work was not credited.
Other illustrators that worked with Neeley Associates over the years were Isa Barnett, Bud Blake, Ken Davies, Francis Golden, Charles McVicker, Al Parker, Charles Reid, Walt Reed, Ben Stahl, and Kuzo Tsugami. Mac Conner and Bill Graveline were represented as well.
In addition, Joy taught children’s art classes in New York City Montessori schools in the early 1960’s. She also worked at Famous Artists Schools, in Westport, Connecticut in the late 60’s and early 70’s.
In 1970, Bill Neeley passed away, and Jessie left Neeley Associates to become an independent art representative till her death in 1984.
[Information courtesy of Willard Neeley, a son of the Neeleys, prepared in 2017. Edited by Roger Reed]