This is a tribute page for my father, Joseph Russell Noel, Jr. This page was created on August 21, 2005--to commemorate his first birthday after his death.
In September of 2004, I felt the need to go and see my father, whose health had been failing for a few years due to his battle with cancer. When I saw for myself how he had deteriorated, I knew that I was seeing him for the last time. And I also knew that, when the time came, I did not want a stranger to give my father's eulogy. I felt very strongly about this. I wanted to tell everyone, in my own words, with my own voice, what a special person Dad was--and why. It took me a couple of months of thinking, writing, rewriting to get to what you read in my tribute.
My awesome brother, on the other hand, took only a couple of days to come up with the perfect compliment to my historical documentary of our Dad--a heartfelt rendering of Dad's last days. We make quite a team!
I also wanted to clarify a part of my tribute. Dad not only had two brothers, but two sisters as well. Sadly, we never knew his youngest sister Linda. She was given into foster care when she was just a baby, and she has not been heard from in decades. And dad also has an older sister, Mary Ellen, who is still alive. Regretfully, we didn't get to visit with Aunt Mary Ellen and her family very much when we were growing up; and while I can remember that we visited them, I could not remember any details about those visits.
As you can see, Dad did not grow up in a very close-knit family at all. For him, with the help of our mother, to have created a family that is as close as ours is indeed noteworthy.
In honor of Dad's birthday, which would have been his 71st, I would like to share the tributes that my brother Russell and I gave for our father at his memorial service. They pretty much say it all.
Thank you all for coming today. My name is Jolynn and I am Joe's daughter. Please bear with me as I get through this.
Joseph Russell Noel, Jr was born on Spring Street on August 21, 1934 in Brockton, Mass. He was 70 years old when he died.
Anyone who has lived that many years cannot help but make an impact on people's lives. Especially if that person is Joe Noel. Dad meant many things to many people.
To some of you, he was a co-worker. To my knowledge, he was one of the most talented and respected painters in the area in his day. Not only for his aptitude for his craft, but for his work ethic. Dad worked hard, seldom missed a day's work, and believed that one should either do the job right or not do it at all. What many of you may not know is that Dad didn't have very much formal education--he didn't make it past the 8th grade in school. But he was a highly intelligent man who read everything he could get his hands on. He could do crossword puzzles better than most college graduates. He could absorb information on any given subject and be able to have either an intelligent discussion or a spirited debate on it--whatever you chose. One of Mom's nicknames for him was "World Book" for this reason. He loved to learn new things. He was also one of the most creative people that I've ever known.
To some of you, he was a friend. If you were Dad's friend, there was nothing in the world that he wouldn't do for you. A place to stay, a beer on the back porch, a loan, a little sod for the front yard, the shirt off his back--if you needed it, Dad would do his best for you. He knew, from his own difficult childhood, what it was like to be hungry and broke and have nowhere to turn. The memory of those days never left him, and when he was in a position to help someone, he never hesitated. He enjoyed having you, his friends, around him. He loved to entertain, and no one could do hospitality like Dad. There were week-end cookouts, Friday night card games, holiday parties--with Dad right in the thick of everything; telling jokes and stories and laughing that wonderful laugh of his. Dad was proud of his home and would bend over backwards to see that you were welcome and comfortable while you were there.
Dad was also a brother. While his relationship with his siblings had more up and downs than a roller coaster ride, there were good times that are worth remembering. I can recall a time when the three of them got together for a visit at Uncle Jim's house. Dad, Uncle Jim, and Uncle John were talking, laughing, and telling stories. If you can sit right now and imagine Dad's laughter and story telling, just multiply that by 2 more and imagine how great it would be to sit in on that! Dad's brother Jim was a professional firefighter and his brother John was a police officer. Dad was proud of his brothers, and never missed an opportunity to mention his brother the fireman or his brother the cop--both difficult jobs that take special people to do.
To two of us, he is a biological father. Due to his childhood circumstances, Dad didn't have a very positive example of how to be a father. Since he didn't particularly like the way he'd been treated as a child, he tried to treat us the way he would have liked to have been treated. As children, we had everything we needed and most of what we wanted. Were we spoiled with material things? Maybe a little. Were we spoiled in any other way? Everyone in this room probably knows the answer to that. Dad did not tolerate disrespectful, ill-mannered, misbehaving children. Of course we were kids we did things wrong. However, we were not repeat offenders--believe me, you only played dog with the ball once in our house! Personally, I only had to cut the front yard with a pair of scissors one time to get the message that whatever it was I had done I should probably never do again. As a child, I used to think that Dad was too hard on us. As an adult, I have had more than one opportunity to observe mouthy, disrespectful children in action and be grateful that I was never allowed to behave like that. I also spent a lot of years wishing that he were more affectionate and verbalized his feelings more for us. I now realize that one of the greatest gifts that he has given me is the realization that love can be manifested in many ways; that many times we have to learn to identify and accept what others are capable of giving--and not discard that gift because it isn't wrapped the way we think it should be.
Dad was also a father figure to so many others. Many of the people who found themselves under Dad's wing were our childhood friends. Dad liked kids, and it was great fun for him to load up his truck, van, Jeep, or whatever and take them for a soda or an ice cream. As we got older, Dad got jobs in the painting business for many of our unemployed friends. Most of these did not work out. However, one took to the trade like a duck to water, working with and learning from Dad steadily for a few years. Today this man, Mr. Danny Gillette, is a successful independent painting contractor in Ocala, Fla. and Dad was so proud of him!
To four of us, he is Poppa--the name that Mark, as first grandchild, gave him. It was the closest that he could come to saying Grandpa. Dad has truly enjoyed being a grandfather, and one of my deepest regrets has been that my family lives so far away that Dad missed out on seeing my 3 children grow up. However, Russ' son Rusty has made up for that. Rusty preferred to be around Dad more than anyone from the time he was a baby, which meant a lot to Dad. The hello/goodbye ritual of a hand-slap, a head-butt, and a kiss was a sight to behold; especially to those who many have thought that Dad was a bit of a hard guy. Dad loved teasing his grandkids; I remember when Julie was about 3 years old and Dad super-glued a dime to the carport floor and casually pointed it out to her. She worked diligently to get the dime off the porch floor, and Dad was in the house giggling. I remember Dad's hearty, "Hey Pal!" greeting to Mark every time he came to the house. And one of the first things that Nicole wanted when she made the middle school basketball team was for one of her games to be videotaped and sent to Poppa, which we did. I think he enjoyed that.
And to one of us, he was the love of her life. Mom was 12 years old when she met Dad on December 31, 1949 at Maple Arena roller skating rink in Brockton, Mass. From the first time she saw him, there was never anyone else as far as she was concerned. They were married on August 4, 1957 in Mom's hometown of Braintree, Mass. Today, it's a pretty rare to find couples that have stayed together as long as they have. Their combined senses of humor and their commitment to each other were the perfect foundation for their marriage. Their relationship has grown and changed throughout the years, and they grew and changed right along with it. Mom seemed to always have knack for knowing when to say nothing at all and when to come off with one of her well-placed zingers that most of us are familiar with. Their "discussions" on various topics would have Russ and I doubled over with laughter. And while some marriages fall apart when the kids leave the nest, Mom and Dad's marriage seemed to get better and better. They not only loved each other, but they really liked each other. What a great way to go through life.
Almost everything that I have done in my life has been inspired by my father. I have always admired his strength of character, his common sense and his sense of humor. I have tried to emulate his work ethic in my own job. I have tried to raise my children in much the same way that he raised his own (with a few modifications). Dad was my role model and my rock. Right now the world seems a little less friendly and a little less bright without him here. But I am also comforted in the knowledge that he is in a better place, where he is no longer in pain and is surrounded by friends and family who have missed him over the years just as much as we miss him now. And they are now laughing at his stories just like we used to. And he would want us to contine to smile and laugh--even if it's through our tears--as we remember him.
And please--don't be surprised if you walk out onto your carport one day and find a dime super-glued to the floor. It's just Dad, saying hello.
Thank you all for coming to pay your last respects to my father, Joe Noel. Please bear with me and I will try to get through this fairly quickly.
I had some time to myself on Christmas Day, and that is when these feelings of sorrow were really getting to me. And I thought of what a lot of people said the last couple of days (myself included) of how bad the timing was for this to happen. And then all of a sudden it hit me. This was not bad timing; as a matter of fact, as was the norm for my dad, it was impeccable timing.
As all of you that knew him well, my father was a very realistic, and also an intelligent man. I believe in my heart he knew exactly what he was doing. He knew that the end was near, and he was tired of fighting, to not live, but just to survive. And while his mind was still strong, his body was not--and he was not going to be at home for Christmas. And I know he was thinking of what kind of Christmas it was going to be for Mom, Rusty, and I, at home wishing he was there, and then having to go spend time on Christmas Day in a hospital room. And for my sister, Jolynn and her family sitting in West Virginia thinking about him in the hospital, and him not being home with Mom, Rusty and I.
So, on Wednesday night when Mom went to see him, he told her how much he appreciated the care she had taken of him through his illness, how much he loved her, and how much she must have loved him. Then he told her of seeing his mother walking down the hall in the hospital, and how he saw his best buddy from the Navy, who has been deceased for many years, on the TV. I think it was his way of letting Mom know that he would not be alone on Christmas.
Then, in his workmanlike fashion, he got up early on Thursday morning, got out of bed and sat in the chair in his room. The nurse on duty told Mom and I that he was alert, talking to him, and seemed to be doing well. After they had talked for a few minutes, Dad told him that he was feeling a little dizzy and would like to lay down. So the nurse said the he helped him back into bed and left the room to get Dad a glass of ice water. And when he returned, less than 2 minutes later, Dad was gone. They tried to revive him, to no avail. Dad decided it was time to go.
I know he went when he did to give Jolynn and her family time to get here so all of us could be together for Christmas. It has been a long time since that has happened, so this was his final gift to us all. Thanks, Dad.
And as expected, there have been some rough times these last few days. We spent a lot of time looking at old pictures and talking about the past, good times and bad.
On Christmas Eve Mom, my sister Jolynn, her son Mark, and I sat up until 1 AM playing cards, talking, having a good time, just like he would have wanted; and I am sure he was looking down on us and laughing right along with us, just like the old days.
We know what a strong willed man he was, and I am sure could have held on longer, but instead displayed his unselfishness and love for his family and made sure we would all be together for Christmas.
So please do not feel pity for my dad, because I can assure you he would not have wanted that.
What he would have wanted is for us to celebrate his life, for those of you who knew him (especially in his younger days) knew he certainly did.
And he would want you to show suppport to his loving wife of 47 years and remember him as the hard working, good hearted family man that he was.
Thank you all again for being here.
And for all of those who couldn't, thanks for loving him.
End of tributes
The personal spirit of the memorial service was completed when Bobby Teresi, a friend of our family since 1968, led us all in prayer. Religion is an important part of Bobby's life, so I felt comforted, not only by his words, but in the knowledge that they truly came from his heart because he had known Dad for all those years.
Between the eulogy delivered by his children, the awesome video presentation of his life, the photos of him that we filled the room with, and the prayer for him given by one of the kids he used to trip over on Saturday mornings in front of the TV, I think we gave Dad a great send-off. And judging from all of the dimes that I've found in odd places since he's been gone--well, I think Dad feels the same way.
And now I am going to go and do what he would have done had he been here on his birthday--crack open a cold beer and think about him as I drink it. I inivite you all to do the same in his honor.
Happy Birthday, Dad
We will always love and miss you.
Noel Family of Brockton, MA by Jolynn Noel Winland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License
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