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Say It Ain’t So, Joe | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Say It Ain’t So, Joe

Sometimes when a good friend dies, it feels like someone punched a hole in your gut and left it hollow. That’s how I feel today, with the passing of a wonderful boss, Joe. Joe and I worked together for the past 15 years. He’s known me since my kids were babies, when Richard and I started our own business, when we fought back after our fire, and now as my kids are about to leave for college.

Joe taught me most of what I know about corporate training and classroom communication. He did it a little at a time, asking me questions, challenging me to find more practical applications for business clients, and always making me feel valued. A New York Italian, Joe had a highly tuned crap detector, brooked little nonsense and had high standards. As a pro at lean manufacturing, Joe’s greatest talent was helping cut through clutter to improve workflow and the final product. His standards were high, and he constantly sought ways to improve his work and help his clients.

One of Joe’s clients told me last week that the moment Joe came on site, all employees would start paying closer attention to work flow and want everything more organized. When he sat in on my classes, I knew he expected me to give my very best work, every single time. If he thought I could improve something, he would tell me. Whenever he visited my classes, he chatted with the students he knew, and you could tell that they trusted him.

When we would plan corporate training series, Joe often took me to meet clients during the planning phase so we could provide the classes they needed. Little did I realize that as I went with Joe on those trips, he was training me to meet with clients, ask good questions, and develop better classes.

Some memories are more vivid than others – the time I was teaching a night class during a terrible thunderstorm, and the wind blew the front door off its hinges. Joe caught the door before it blew off the building. Fortunately, the class was for utility workers who came in their work trucks and had tools to fix the door.

What I’ll always treasure most was quiet, hidden kindness. When our home and business burned 10 years ago, Joe called me and told me he would try to get as many classes as he could to teach, and he did. He referred work my way at every opportunity. Two years ago, when I returned to work after a 6 week medical leave after surgery, Joe had reorganized my classroom. 

Typical of his attention to personal detail, he had found a picture of my kids and put it by my table, telling me, “So you would feel at home and know you’re welcome back.”

I don’t know if there is any fluff in heaven, but if there is, Joe just might talk to God about how 5S could streamline heavenly works so things run more efficiently. Then he’ll talk to everyone in the room and see just how they are doing.

There are people in your life who fill a paragraph, who fill a page, or who might make up a chapter. Joe was one of those people who opened new books to me and showed me how to always aim higher, keep customer satisfaction as a top priority, and to never quit looking for ways to improve my work. He taught me how to think like a business owner.

As a tribute to Joe, I reorganized my own desk and applied 5S to it. Just like he said, it helps me focus and be more productive. When I heard of his passing, all I could think was, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

You’ll be missed.


2 Responses to “Say It Ain’t So, Joe”

  1. Sal Aliotta September 1, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    Mary … what a nice tribute to Joe. I only met Joe a couple times at our Italian-American Club meetings, but when I did he was such a pleasure to be around. We both were from the New York area, so it was fun sharing stories about the “old days.” Our club will miss him, as will everyone whose life he touched. Joe was a great man.

  2. Janie Williams September 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    I worked in the CE offices on campus as a work-study with Joe, Meg and Leah. I though that Joe was a great guy and easy to talk to. I know he will be greatly missed.

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