#doitforjoe, love never fails
Joe was handsome, charismatic, and known for talking with people who needed some kindness. He impacted a lot of lives, often in small, but important ways. He was a mentor to younger people, very respectful, well-spoken, caring and a hugger. Joe loved sports, music, facts and history.
Joe excelled at both sports and academics. He was the captain of the football team and also played rugby, basketball and other sports. The night before a football game, he would watch inspirational videos to inform his half time pep talk to his fellow players. He was on the chess team and won awards for his character and grades and was scouted by about 60 colleges for academics and sports. But for all his accomplishments, Joe was not egotistical. “This was a kid destined for greatness,” his mom, Jocellyn said.
Mom was at every event cheering not only for Joe but his entire team “We were a village.” she said. That must have been where Joe got his modesty. When given accolades for his sports performance he would say, “I wouldn’t be able to do it if others didn’t do what they are supposed to do.” He was always encouraging and humble.
From the time he was 16, Joe worked at a local restaurant as a sous chef, often working 10-12 hours a day, then coming home to play video games and spend time with his girlfriend at his mom’s house, the gathering place for his friends. The employees at the restaurant spanned all ages and he could relate with them all. Some of the older ones were wowed with his knowledge of “their” music from the seventies. Joe never let anyone leave work hungry, always offering to cook for them when their shift ended. He also volunteered for Meals on Wheels.
Joe’s head coach said it devastated the entire town to learn of his death. His mother describes Joe’s Celebration of Life Service as “tragically beautiful.” High school friends flew in from Florida or drove from New York. Teachers and coaches from junior high and high school attended. His college friends wore Joe’s number 2 and played in his honor on their return to school. Some wore wristbands for him and were given permission, despite the rules, to wear them during football practice.
The family requested that donations be made to charities of choice and learned that some people fed the homeless or helped those with addictions. Some have tattoos honoring Joe and a #doitforjoe hashtag was developed to pay it forward in his name. One college friend named his daughter Mazie Joe and proclaimed “Joe is her Godfather in Heaven.” “In 22 years, Joe accomplished what people 99 haven’t,” his mom stated.
On the first anniversary of Joe’s death, his mother helped organize an event and subsequent organization called “Break the Silence,” to bring attention to mental illness and substance use disorder. Knowing that these diseases only get worse when hidden, they wanted to address the shame and stigma that often prevent people from getting help. She is working with a Pennsylvania Congressman who attended the event to make needed changes to laws. His mother now works for the Public Defender’s office, where she often comforts parents and shares her story. “Joe was here for a purpose. His legend will never die.” Jocellyn stated.
Joe’s mother, Jocellyn Lopez, provided the information for this narrative.
January 23, 1996-July 27, 2018
Age 22-Lived with the disease of addiction one year