The only Joyce Yost picture most people have ever seen, if they’ve seen any at all, is an image captured on film shortly before her disappearance in August of 1985.
Joyce had sat for a series of professional portraits that summer at a photo studio in Ogden, Utah where she was then working with her daughter, Kim Salazar.
This Joyce Yost picture was the one appeared in news paper stories and TV reports about her disappearance.
“They weren’t her favorite pictures of herself at all,” Joyce’s son Greg Roberts told me. “But there’s not a lot of other ones we have.”
“Binky” from Bemidji
Joyce was born on January 3, 1946 to George and Hulda Figel. She was the third of three children in the family, though her older sisters Dorothy and Edna were 19 and 18 years her senior, respectively.
Joyce earned the nickname “Binky” as a child, thanks to her fondness for that particular brand of pacifier.
The Figel family lived on a farm on the outskirts of Bemidji, Minn., a college town near the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Joyce was still a child when her parents divorced, leaving her to be raised by her mother and sisters.
When in junior high school, Joyce met a boy named Mel Roberts.
Mel, who was three years older than Joyce, remembered her as a “typical northern Minnesota country girl” who took great care to keep up her physical appearance.
“She was always dressed to the nines, hair was always impeccable.”Mel Roberts
Mel graduated high school and enrolled at Bemidji State College while still dating Joyce. He hadn’t been there long before his younger girlfriend delivered some life-changing news: she was pregnant.
The announcement came as a shock to Joyce’s mother, Hulda Figel.
“We were all raised Lutherans and she was gonna put her in a Lutheran home and give the baby up for adoption,” Roberts said of Figel’s reaction.
Mel proposed a different solution. He would drop out of college, find a steady job and marry Joyce.
Family album of Joyce Yost pictures
Mel Roberts and Joyce Figel wed in January of 1962.
Mel began knocking doors at businesses in the hopes of finding work. He ended up in the office of a manager at a metal stamping company.
“He said ‘do you have a girl pregnant?’ And I looked at him like he was on Mars,” Mel said. “Come to find out his son was in the same circumstances. Similar age to me. And honest to God, I think that’s probably why he hired me.”
Their first child, a daughter they named Kim, arrived that May. Joyce was, by that time, 16 years old. Mel was 19. He, his young bride and their baby girl relocated to an apartment in Minneapolis.
Joyce soon became pregnant again and in June of 1963, she and her husband welcomed their second child: a son whom they named Greg.
Mel and Joyce Roberts led busy lives, even at such young ages. He worked full time during the days while she watched the children. They made friends with their neighbors in Minneapolis, but found their responsibilities left them little time for socializing.
“We didn’t even know what day it was back then,” Roberts said. “You look back on how you survived and it was pretty amazing.”
Mel remembered Joyce as a dedicated mother. He said she would sometimes drag the ironing board out onto the lawn so she could press the laundry in the sun.
“She was a sun goddess,” Roberts said. “She’d lay out in the sun when it was 40 degrees out.”
The strain of their situation began to mount.
“I would work during the day and then she had a job in the evenings,” Mel said.
Joyce mostly waited tables. She didn’t make much, finding her earning power limited due in part to her having dropped out of school. Yet she was diligent in her efforts to help provide.
“Had we not been so young, I’m pretty sure the relationship would have been far more successful,” Mel said.
“He loved her then and he loves her now. He’s always loved her. If they hadn’t been so young, they would have had a great life together.”Kim Salazar, née Roberts
Mel and Joyce divorced after only a few years. They remained cordial, however. Mel had grown close not only with Joyce but also with her sisters. Yet Joyce’s sisters had each relocated away from Minnesota, leaving her with little support in her home state.
Mel remembered Joyce struggling during the years following their split.
“Struggling financially and I think she was struggling emotionally as well,” Mel said.
The Vietnam War was underway and the U.S. Army drafted Mel. By 1968 he was deployed to Korea, leaving Joyce without a reason to remain in Minnesota.
Joyce’s move to Utah
Joyce’s oldest sister, Dorothy “Dot” Dial, had by that point in the late 1960s moved to Utah and settled in the city of Clearfield, just west of Hill Air Force Base. Joyce decided to make a fresh start by following Dorothy to Utah.
“We were just barely school age,” Joyce’s son Greg Roberts said.
They lived for a time with Dorothy before Joyce found a place of her own in the neighboring community of Sunset.
Joyce had not been in Utah long before she met and married her second husband, a man named George Yost.
“Her and George bought a home together,” Greg Roberts said. “George had a big Buick Electra 225. We could swim around the back of there.”
Joyce’s marriage to George Yost lasted only a few years. She and her children, Kim and Greg, found themselves on the move again after the divorce. They lived for a time in the city of Roy, where Kim and Greg attended school.
Joyce worked constantly to support herself. She secured a position selling cosmetics at the ZCMI department store in downtown Ogden during the day and supplemented her income working as a cocktail waitress at night.
“All the time we were growing up, she worked two and three jobs at a time,” Joyce’s daughter Kim Salazar told me. “We never wanted for anything except maybe her.”
That want would only intensify after Joyce Yost disappeared.
Hear how a mysterious barrage of roses relates to Joyce Yost’s disappearance in Cold episode 1: The Type that Sends Roses
Research, writing and hosting: Dave Cawley
Audio production: Nina Earnest
Audio mixing: Trent Sell
Additional voices: Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell)
Cold main score composition: Michael Bahnmiller
Cold main score mixing: Dan Blanck
KSL executive producers: Sheryl Worsley, Keira Farrimond
Workhouse Media executive producers: Paul Anderson, Nick Panella, Andrew Greenwood
Amazon Music team: Morgan Jones, Eliza Mills, Vanessa Rebbert, Shea Simpson
Episode transcript: https://thecoldpodcast.com/season-2-transcript/the-type-that-sends-roses-full-transcript/
KSL companion story: https://ksltv.com/459341/the-cold-podcast-returns-where-is-joyce-yost/
Talking Cold companion episode: https://thecoldpodcast.com/talking-cold#tc-episode-1