This Man Joe….

Joe baum

I want to give a little insight into the kind of man Joe Baum was, not the husband or father, but the man.

You see, I was given a gift, a gift I didn’t realize was a gift until after the fact.   I was given the gift of living with my Dad for 7 weeks, to care for him before he died.

In that time I met the greatest man I never knew.   How do I describe Joe Baum?  He was quite a man.  He was a storyteller, a hard worker, a dreamer, a gentleman, a man of compassion, and also known by some, to be the most stubborn man on the face of God’s green earth.

He was strong, yet soft.  He was in control, yet highly emotional, he was tough yet gentle.   Joe was a generous man.  He never had any money, but if he ever did have any money, I am sure he would have given it to people in need.

What he did give, was his time, his heart, and his love, to those he knew were alone and in need of companionship.

Joe never received awards for his charitable work or selfless deeds. His award was in the doing, not in a plaque, or praise, or thanks.  He didn’t need any of that.

He did so much for so many, yet rarely spoke of it.  He never became involved in organizations or clubs to do his charitable work that just wasn’t his style, he did things his own way, on his own terms wherever he saw a need, and he did it with his whole heart and kept it between him and God.

He would go to the nursing homes in the area and find individuals who never received visitors.  He would bring them their favorite candy, magazines, and puzzle books.   My Dad could spot the lonely and abandoned.   You see, Dad was abandoned by his mother when he was about 3 years old, when his father was killed in a car accident, so he grew up, not in a typical home, but in an orphanage. He received not one visit from his Mom until she came back for him when he was about 13.

Believe me, he never felt sorry for himself, in fact he always talked of the good times and the trouble he would get into at that orphanage.   Yes, Dad loved to tell stories.   Whether they were stories about the orphanage, his work years at Harrison Supply or his time in Germany during WWII, he told his stories to anyone who would listen.  Sometimes I believe my talent for writing comes from his storytelling.  I write on paper, the way he told stories in words.  

If you took the time to sit with Joe in his later years, you would learn things you never knew about him.   I had that opportunity when I moved in with him for those last 7 weeks of his life to care for him.  Each night we would talk and have ice cream and he would tell me about his life and what a wonderful life he had been blessed with for 98 years.  His life wasn’t an easy life, believe me, but he believed it to be a wonderful life and he enjoyed it all.

When cleaning out his apartment after he passed, I learned even more about my Dad, I learned he loved his family with all his heart, and he was so proud of everyone.  He saved every card, every newspaper article, and every piece of paper his children or grandchildren gave him.  If his grandchild’s name was in a newspaper article that was an entire page long, and his grandchild’s name was mentioned once in a list of 47 names….he would highlight their name with a yellow highlighter and put the article in a scrapbook.  He saved everything.    Every letter, every card and every gift.

I have one story that helps describe my Dad that only I know about.  I would like to share it with you.

One day I asked my Dad if he could drive my daughter to Dance class, I was really in a bind and running late for an appointment.  He said he couldn’t because he had to go see someone at the nursing home.   I was fuming.  How could my father put some stranger in a nursing home before his family?

I stormed off and found someone to get her there.

That same evening I went over to give him a piece of my mind about not putting family first.

He told me to calm down and listen.  (I used to hear that a lot from Dad).

He said….Linda, I promised a woman at the nursing home I would be there today because her son was coming to visit and she wanted me to meet him.  It was so important to her.  I knew you would find a way to get Joanna to dance class, and you did, didn’t you?  I said yes, but that is not the point.   You put a stranger over your family.  Again he looked at me and said.  This woman waits patiently for her son to come visit her every Friday.  This Friday she was excited to have me meet him.  I needed to be there today Lin, because I was told by another resident that each Friday she waits for her son, and each Friday he doesn’t show up.  I didn’t want her to be alone. Yes, she is a stranger I met in a nursing home while visiting, but she is a person who is alone and feels abandoned and each time her son does this to her, the pain gets deeper.  Maybe today, when he didn’t show up, and we played cards, talked and laughed a bit, it took away a bit of that pain or at least didn’t add more.

Thinking back I realize how his own life experience of being abandoned could have made him a very bitter man, yet it made him a man of compassion, empathy and appreciation. 

Maybe my Dad was not recognized for all the wonderful things he did for others while on this earth, but I am sure if God gives out good deed doer plaques in heaven, he received it the moment St. Peter opened the gates.

This was my Dad, we love him, we miss him, and all of his stories will live on in the hearts and minds of all of us who took the time to listen.

I know if he could leave us with parting words, it would be one of his famous lines…. ENJOY YOUR LIFE, ENJOY YOUR LIFE AND PLEASE….LOVE EACH OTHER.   LIFE IS SO SHORT.




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