Saturday, April 23, 2011
Here is a link to a post I wrote in July of 2009 about my friend Joe, aka Santa. When I wrote that post we didn't expect to see Joe again since his doctors had given him only months to live.But Joe did things his way. He was back to volunteer that December with us when his 'boys', members of his motorcycle club, brought him in his motorized wheelchair to volunteer a few hours one night. Joe sat at a table and checked gifts out as the families picked them up. He called out the family numbers loud and strong, but at the end of the evening he was exhausted.Last fall I got a call from Joe saying he planned to make an appearance during Distribution Week in December and would help as much as he could. Tuesday of that week in the middle of all the craziness of getting Christmas gifts to more than 2,000 needy kids I got a call on my cell from Joe. I found a quiet corner to sit and talk.We had never talked often but I noticed a big difference in his voice. He was worn down and tired. He told me he was all done and couldn't fight any longer. He was calling in hospice.We talked for a while, and for the first time he told me what brought him to help us originally. When his daughter was going through some tough times years earlier, she applied to Adopt-a-Family and we provided gifts for her two children. Things eventually improved for her and her kids, now grown and on their own, but she never forgot about us and neither did he.At the end of our chat he said his daughter was coming to cover the time he had volunteered to work. I said it wasn't necessary but he said she wanted to and would be there.I'll keep my last few words to Joe to myself. After we hung up I went into the bathroom and cried.His daughter Kelley came by that evening and helped us. It was my first time meeting her and we talked about her dad and she confirmed the story he had told me. At the end of the evening I hugged her and asked her to keep us informed.That was last December. We didn't hear anything from the family until yesterday afternoon when Frank, one of Joe's 'boys' from the bike club, called to tell me Santa had passed away that morning. Incredibly he had kept going two years longer than the doctors said he would.As I said to Frank, he did it his way. As a group the Adopt-a-Family Board of Directors will be going to the services to pay our respects to our friend "Santa." And as I promised Joe, Paul and I will be riding in the memorial ride that will be held in his honor. It's the least I can do for such a loyal friend.