It was a Colorado spectacular last Sunday of October in 1998. There was a buzz on at the church, and we were headed after worship to a Bronco game. Mary Kay got a phone call from her brother Dan. Her face fell, I knew something was wrong. “My Dad was hit by a car and he is in surgery”. He was making his usual Sunday rounds taking communion to ‘shut-ins’ and was one block from home when a truck came over a hill way too fast and broadsided Joe. We gave our Bronco tickets to our daughter Amy and headed to PUEBLO.
We got to St. Mary’s hospital to be met by all 9 of MK’s siblings, and lots of nephews and nieces. Sitting quietly in their midst was my mom Pat, who came to be with the family. Her Dad was in surgery with a broken neck. A couple hours after our arrival the surgeon came out to tell us he had died. Just two days before I had played golf with this very vibrant 81 year old. Joe Wodiuk did not know a stranger. He sang lead in a barber shop quartet, built a steel fabrication business from the ground up, and survived three years of combat in the South Pacific in WWII. His parents had immigrated through Ellis Island from Poland. Joe was kind, generous, funny, smart and loved by an entire community. I was privileged to conduct his funeral at St. Pat’s Catholic Church. It was a laughter through tears day.
The following Memorial Day my Mom gave us a little sprig of a Blue Spruce which which she had gotten at her church where they were given to plant in honor someone who had died. It couldn’t have been 4 inches long in a clear plastic tube with instructions as to how to grow it. We named the tree ‘Joe’ and it was put in a little pot on our back sun porch. In about four years Joe moved to our Capital Hill garden. By 2009 it was about two feet high. In April on 2009 our house was left hanging on a cliff when 14 shoring piers collapsed leaving our 105 year old house hanging on a 30 ft. cliff. Joe, was clinging to the edge of the abyss. The story of our destroyed house would fill a 12 volume book set. We potted Joe in a big pot and asked our friend Johnny P. to care for him until we figured out where we were going to move. A year latter we transplanted Joe to park at South Broadway Christian Church. It was a slow start but Joe adjusted.
Last week a group of 12-steppers met in the park on a Sunday night. This photo is our “Joe” taken last week. I told a group of people the story of Joe as we sat in a circle, six feet apart, with masks, sharing in our recovery. One of the group texted me later to say how much the story of Joe served as a symbol of hope and resilience.
Joe grew from four inches to ten feet in 21 years, and has moved four times. Every Christmas my friend Rod puts Christmas lights on our Joe. It stands alone in the yard. 50,000 cars a day drive by Joe who is just another handsome tree🌲 pointing to the heavens.
Onward and Upward,