By: Sandra Churchill
Dignity… grace…wisdom…patience…and a joke or two… These traits sum up my image of a quintessential grandpa—and a wonderful gentleman in our community named Joe. He was a role model in our parish, an active community member, a retired teacher, and a selfless volunteer and friend to families, teens, singles, children—in short, anyone who crossed his path.
We lost Joe suddenly after Easter and have been feeling his presence—and absence—in daily scenes that characterize small-town life: trips to the dump or to the library, glimpses of his face missing from meetings and errand runs, and his so-monumental absence in the church pew.
Joe was the grandfather I never got to meet, a wonderful, gracious gentleman who enjoyed seeing our children as they grew from infants to curious toddlers to serious teens and ambitious college students. He was always quick to praise our daughters as altar servers or lectors, singers or avid honor students; as well as, our young son as he succeeded as a pint-size cable TV journalist, karate student, or budding role model himself.
His loss is much bigger than one might think, given he is not a relative or next-door neighbor. His absence hit home in recent weeks how much we all need role models in our community. My husband was in awe that Joe carried a “joke in his pocket” everywhere he went—and never seemed to repeat one! He had a twinkle in his eye when the kids shared a joke in return, and we found out later on that he not only was a retired elementary school teacher, but had earned his PhD as well. What a humble man who never seemed to brag or condescend to others.
By his mere presence, Joe seemed to call all of us to better behavior, more patience, greater compassion, and a wisdom that comes with years of experience and gentle living. Joe was a frequent attendee at library story hours when our daughters were young, as he was a steady care-giver for his young grandson. He was a church lector and even inspired my husband (and years later—our oldest daughter) to follow in his footsteps.
This gentleman was kind to his wife and daughters, adored his young grandson, and always had a smile and lent a hand to those in need. One librarian once joked that he was so patient with his grandchild that he “made Mr. Rogers look mean”!
He is missed by all of us every day. I still cannot believe he is gone from our daily routine, but am touched by all the ways he showed us how to live. We love you Joe and are grateful not only for the ways you touched our lives but for our own Grandpa Angel in Heaven.