Obituary for Bonolo Joy Tlou
December 24, 1963 – June 12, 2021
Bonolo Joy Tlou was born in Gwanda, Zimbabwe on 24 December 1963. He passed away unexpectedly of natural causes at his home in Park City, Utah on 12 June 2021. His Mom, sisters and he moved to Decorah, Iowa when he was 2 ½ years old to join his father who was a student at Luther College. Joy attended elementary school in Decorah; junior high school in Glencoe, Il; and graduated high school in Blacksburg, VA. He earned his BA degree in Communications from Luther College in 1986.
In the days before Zimbabwe’s independence, at a time the country was under an apartheid-like regime, Tlou family devotions (nightly prayer and signing) were a means of coping with oppression and keeping hope alive. After arriving in the US and when Joy was turning 3 years old, the iconic and legendary music educator and conductor, Prof. Weston Noble, asked Joy to sing in the annual Christmas concert of the Luther College Nordic Choir, “one of the most elite a cappella college choirs in the US”. Young little Joy sang a solo in Handel’s Messiah. In his mid-30s, he rediscovered his musical ability, which would define the way he would spread much joy until his passing.
His love of life was lived through his expression of the fine arts. His every breath was musically inclined and found himself as the lead singer of the popular Utah R&B band Soul Patrol. He later formed the Joy & Eric acoustic duo, a mainstay in the local musical scene of Park City. They were in high demand and played as the opening band for A-list musicians like Natalie Cole, Al Green, Chicago, John Oats, among many others. The combination of Joy’s flawless voice, Eric’s excellent guitar playing, and Joy’s vibrant and cheerful energy made their performances a spiritual and joyful musical experience.
Like his father, Joy enjoyed the art of “throwing pots”, a ceramic skill he learned in art class at Luther College, taught by master potter, his mentor and family friend Dean Schwarz. Joy was also a certified and accomplished chef and passionate foodie, which enabled him to share a most exquisite culinary journey with friends, family, community and clients. He posted many of his beautifully made dishes on Facebook and Instagram, which garnered endless followers.
Joy loved fishing, skiing, telling jokes and simply being in the company of friends and family. He relished living in Park City an ideal location for skiing, fishing, and having dinner parties with friends and family. His house was also popularly visited by herds of elk, deer and all varieties of birds. From his house he could see the Olympic ski hills and he took exquisite photos of gorgeous sunsets over the Wasatch Mountains.
Joy’s professional career as college administrator spanned nearly 30 years at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), working initially as Director of Student Advising and then as Director of Public Relations until his death. According to the SLCC statement, “He was deeply committed to the college and loved to talk about our students’ stories and triumphs. Everyone loved working with Joy, and his dedication and optimism made us all want to do our best to serve our students and the community.”
He is survived by his parents, Dr. Josiah and Mrs. Litha Tlou; his sister Lehlohonolo (Lee) Tlou, Lee’s husband Edward (Kofi) Opoku Adusei and their daughter Eno Lebohang Opoku Adusei; his sister Lehlaseli (Hla) Tlou; his brother Leeto Josiah Tlou and Leeto’s wife Charlene Barnsdale; and countless family members in Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, UK and US.
There will be a public memorial in honor and celebration of Joy’s life at the City Park in Park City, Utah on Friday, 18 June 2021 from 4-8pm. In lieu of flowers, the family would be grateful if donations are offered in Joy Tlou’s name to support the Utah Food Bank’s campaign to fight hunger statewide@ utahfoodbank.org.
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