Tuesday, July 7, 2009

See You Later, Joe

I haven’t really been up to writing much on the blog the last few days. I have needed time to grieve the death of a dear friend by the name of Joe Dennison. Joe left this world on July 3.

Joe lived in Greensboro, NC, with his much-praised wife. He was retired from the VA where his work with Veterans will be recorded as outstanding. He was indeed dedicated to those who faithfully served this country and seemed, at times, to have been lost in the system and forgotten by the very ones they served to protect. Even in retirement, Joe was dedicated to “his Vets” as he often called them in our correspondence. He did studies on why vets sometimes became homeless; why they turned to drugs and/or alcohol; and why their lives often landed on the junk heaps of society. Joe questioned everything and everyone trying to find the answers so that he could in some way stop the cycle and improve the quality of life for every Veteran, not just the lost souls.

Joe was also a professor at High Point University where he taught Social Work for a number of years prior to and after his retirement. He was as passionate about making better social workers of those who passed through his classes as he was in improving the lives of veterans. He would often write in e-mails about the number of papers left to grade and how long it took to grade papers that required students to think and write. Joe was not one who gave much credence to the multiple choice types of tests, I am sure. He would fight his way through them and, a few days later, I would get an e-mail of, "WHOOPEE, I’m finished. Now where were we in our conversation?" and so we would continue where we had left off.

Joe was the type of man who made you think and to sometimes adjust your own thinking. And if you presented an argument containing good evidence, then Joe would say, “I’d never looked at it that way, but, indeed, you are right. Thank you for presenting such a well thought out argument.” Few men I know would admit, as Joe did, "Hey, I was wrong," and then thank you for changing his mind on the subject.

It was probably back in 2003 when Joe and I first met on the News and Record Letter to the Editor Blog. Of course, I don’t think they called it a blog in those days, but it was fun just the same. We met online, and through the years, we kept our conversations going on the blogs and via e-mails. During that time, we shared our happy times, our sad times, thoughts and ideas on a variety of subjects, but one was our favorite and that was the plight of Veterans.

Joe was one of the few people who asked me to share my thoughts on the Vietnam War who was not just a curiosity seeker or trying to find some way to criticize. I was cautious at first, but as I became more and more comfortable, I was able to share thoughts and ideas with Joe that I had never even shared with family. I guess that may sound strange to some, especially considering all I knew was an e-mail address and what he has shared with me about his personal life. It was enough.

Joe could bring happiness through a smile, even a smile expressed only in words. He could enthuse one to write something better simply by a few words expressed in an e-mail. He had an infectious manner about him that one could clearly feel, even in the words of an e-mail or words on a blog. I guess I could say that Joe made you feel like he cared.

There is a poem called The DASH that recalls the line between the dates of birth and the dates of our death. The dash represents everything one has done between those two dates. The dash is a person's life. I know for certain that that dash will be crowded in Joe's stats, for he certainly left his mark on many, many people during his stay on this earth. He certainly made an impact on me.

I never got to see that smile or experience the pleasure of his company, but Joe was, indeed, my dear friend, and he will be sorely missed. Joe will not get to read this post on his computer, but I will send it just the same, just one last time. I will cherish the times we shared via our computers—the smiles, the tears, the joy, the enthusiasm, and most importantly, his love for God, his family and his country. I didn’t get to meet Joe here on earth as we had planned, for God had other plans for Joe on July 3rd, but I do know this: One day I will meet him, and we will hug like long-lost brothers, and then I will enjoy the warmth of his smile.

Below are just a few remarks that others have left about Joe. I hope that each of us will have a Joe in our life as we pass through this world.

He was a brilliant man who, with his kindly smile, subconsciously and infectiously brought comfort and joy to people around him. I will miss my friend Joe. (a former student and friend)

He had a passion for what he did that was contagious. (a former student)

He was so enthusiastic in his work for the veterans. I will miss his infectious smile and positive spirit.
(a former worker at the VA where they worked together)

Joe was a kind, loving, and special person, and we are blessed having encountered him in this life. (a neighbor)

Joe enriched the lives of many people as he shared his love of God, family, and community. (a friend)

So long, Joe! You will be missed.

14 comments:

Leslie said...

Ticker,

I am deeply sorry for the loss of your friend. Sharing his story here is a lovely tribute. I pray you will receive peace and solace that only God can bring. A wonderful joy to know that you shall see him again...

Most sincerely,
Leslie

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, heartfelt words, Ticker.

Sadly I will say a final goodbye to Joe Thursday at Our Lady of Grace. He will be sorely missed by all who were fortunate to have crossed the path of this kind and gentle man.

Thanks for this woderful tribute.

Fred Gregory

Ticker said...

Thank you Leslie and Fred.
Indeed I shall see him someday and Fred he was indeed a kind and gentle man.

Mustang said...

First of all, let me offer my heart-felt sympathy to you and to Joe’s family for their loss. Few words can comfort the bereaved … particularly when they come from someone who didn’t know this fine man. But I am one of those people who firmly believe that while it is true we all die, we are not gone … until there is no one left alive to remember us. It sounds to me as though Joe will be with us for a long time to come. I find that comforting.

Semper Fidelis,

Maggie M. Thornton said...

Ticker, this will be very dear to Joe's family. It's a wonderful tribute. I've lost one close friend and that was some time ago. It's very, very difficult.

Thanks so much for sharing with your friends here.

Bryan said...

From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

Anonymous said...

Ticker: I am so sorry to hear that a dear friend of your has passed on. You certainly wrote a heartfelt tribute in honor of his life. May those precious memories bring comfort in the days ahead, not only to you, but his family and other friends.
Hugs to each of you across the miles.
Lanner

Dr. Mary Johnson said...

An online hug to you, Blogfather.

Ticker said...

Mustang, Bryan, Maggie, Lanner and my special blogdaughter and Good Doctor.

Thank each of you for your heartfelt responses. Joe's memory will go on indeed and the deeds that he accomplished on this earth and in this life will not go unrewarded in a much better place than here. Joe wished no accolades on earth for his treasure was indeed laid up in Heaven.

Thank each of you again.
Ticker

Ticker said...

Mustang, Bryan, Maggie, Lanner and my special blogdaughter and Good Doctor.

Thank each of you for your heartfelt responses. Joe's memory will go on indeed and the deeds that he accomplished on this earth and in this life will not go unrewarded in a much better place than here. Joe wished no accolades on earth for his treasure was indeed laid up in Heaven.

Thank each of you again.
Ticker

Ticker said...

Mustang, Bryan, Maggie, Lanner and my special blogdaughter and Good Doctor.

Thank each of you for your heartfelt responses. Joe's memory will go on indeed and the deeds that he accomplished on this earth and in this life will not go unrewarded in a much better place than here. Joe wished no accolades on earth for his treasure was indeed laid up in Heaven.

Thank each of you again.
Ticker

Inspector Clouseau said...

In my humble opinion, the best piece that you have written which I have read Ticker. Really, really good, and revealing. Thanks for sharing it with us.

P.S. Although I did not know him, Joe was a special guy.

Lex said...

For someone who never met Joe in real life, you certainly captured him, Ticker. Thanks for this heartfelt tribute.

Always On Watch said...

I've said good-bye to more friends than I care to admit.

A wonderful tribute, Ticker.

And my sincere condolences to you. You will miss Joe for a long, long time. And that ache is also a tribute to Joe.