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Joe Garber: American Hero

 

We knew Joe through his wife, who was also called Jo. Joe was her second husband; she knew him through an organization to which her first husband belonged; both men were prisoners of war. When Jo’s first husband died, Joe eventually courted her and Jo and Joe were married.

A couple of weeks ago, Joe passed away. Both of them had been knocked down by a nasty strain of the flu; Joe didn’t make it. He had been unwell for a while, suffering for years from maladies such as a recurrent type of dysentery and vertigo, results of his year as a POW in a Nazi camp. In spite of the trials he’d been through back then, he was funny and engaged with others. His funeral was yesterday.

Joe was a radioman in a B17, shot down over Germany. He was in the camp for one very long year, going from 159 pounds to 89 pounds. One person at the funeral shared how much he loved Joe’s stories. He even cracked a joke when the Nazis picked him up after parachuting into enemy territory. His joke was met with the butt of a rifle. He was featured in a news story with other Daytona Beach veterans three years ago on the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.

Into his ’90s, Joe visited schools to tell his stories of the war, so that young people would appreciate the great country they lived in. They loved his stories, his sense of humor and his joy for life. When he told us about those events, he was always moved by the curiosity of the teenagers and how warm and respectful they were toward him.

He also loved golf, and for many years he played with two other men; one of the wives attended Joe’s funeral yesterday. She said that if Joe died, the other two men had planned to freeze him and take his body out to the golf course every time they played. It wouldn’t be necessary, she said: Joe outlived both men.

Joe and Jo were also involved in the Veterans Museum and Education Center in Daytona Beach. He was concerned that the museum didn’t have a display specifically dedicated to the Air Force, so he made sure that a display was created. He was also involved in leadership roles in several national veterans associations.

Although we usually only saw Joe when we were with Jo for depositions (we’re all involved with a nasty court case that has gone on for five years) or over lunch afterward, he was always animated and cheerful. He often wore his POW cap. During the last year, we greeted him just before a deposition began, and as he and Jo sat across the table from us, I saw him looking at us and pointing. I realized then he was fading. He didn’t know who we were.

I expect, though, as often happens with dementia, Joe still had his older stories to keep him company, even though we were all being lost to him. Jo took very good care of him, as well as her 95-year-old sister. At one point, she finally had to put Joe in a facility, after he’d gone off one day in the car and ended up in Georgia, located by the sheriff’s department. Jo’s sister and Joe switched places: her sister, also suffering from dementia, came to live with Jo, but Joe was placed in a facility due to his mental deterioration and unpredictable moods.

Still, he had touched countless lives with his stories, heroism, patriotism and resilient attitude about life. He and Jo were a devoted couple right up until the end.

A couple of young men who spoke about Joe at the funeral asked us all to carry on his legacy. Many people will always remember him as the vibrant man and hero he was.

Here’s to you, Joe; thank you for your service.

There are 23 comments.

  1. Member

    A lovely tribute Susan. I would have liked to have known Joe.

    • #1
    • April 13, 2018 at 6:48 am
    • 6 likes
  2. Member

    Memory eternal.

    • #2
    • April 13, 2018 at 6:51 am
    • 4 likes
  3. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    A lovely tribute Susan. I would have liked to have known Joe.

    He was really a character. And opinionated, too. We shared the same politics, thank goodness!

    • #3
    • April 13, 2018 at 6:55 am
    • 4 likes
  4. Member

    A good tribute. It’s good to learn about these people. Did Joe ever tell what joke got him the rifle butt?

    • #4
    • April 13, 2018 at 7:52 am
    • 6 likes
  5. Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    A good tribute. It’s good to learn about these people. Did Joe ever tell what joke got him the rifle butt?

    Curious minds want to know!

    • #5
    • April 13, 2018 at 8:52 am
    • 5 likes
  6. Member

    kidCoder (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    A good tribute. It’s good to learn about these people. Did Joe ever tell what joke got him the rifle butt?

    Curious minds want to know!

    It probably did not matter. By early 1944, the Germans were . . . displeased, to put it mildly . . . with the bombing raids they were suffering. Anything would get you a rifle butt – if you were lucky. Many downed airmen were lynched by civilian mobs or shot out of hand by military personnel after they landed. For some reason, that they were getting back with interest what they had paid out at Warsaw, Rotterdam, and Coventry did not register with these people.

    • #6
    • April 13, 2018 at 9:05 am
    • 7 likes
  7. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    A good tribute. It’s good to learn about these people. Did Joe ever tell what joke got him the rifle butt?

    No, I got the story second-hand, so I don’t know. It could have been something as bland as “Isn’t it a great day?” Of course, he couldn’t speak German and they likely spoke no English.

    • #7
    • April 13, 2018 at 9:07 am
    • 5 likes
  8. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    It probably did not matter. By early 1944, the Germans were . . . displeased, to put it mildly . . . with the bombing raids they were suffering. Anything would get you a rifle butt – if you were lucky.

    Thanks, Seawriter. My thinking, too.

    • #8
    • April 13, 2018 at 9:08 am
    • 3 likes
  9. Thatcher

    Thanks, SQ! Eternal Rest and Perpetual Light, in Peace and Honor! May his name be for a blessing…Hugs for Jo!

    • #9
    • April 13, 2018 at 9:38 am
    • 4 likes
  10. Thatcher

    Rest well, Joe. You’ve earned it.

    • #10
    • April 13, 2018 at 9:53 am
    • 4 likes
  11. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    I forgot to say that after the mass they had a military honor guard. It’s the first time I’ve been to, one in-person. The beauty of precision, the seriousness of the men, watching the flag being carefully unfolded and folded, then presented to Jo with soft, comforting words; then Taps and the firing of rifles. It was all a call to honor Joe and our military, and to be humble.

    • #11
    • April 13, 2018 at 10:05 am
    • 9 likes
  12. Member

    Thanks for letting us meet and share Joe with you.

    • #12
    • April 13, 2018 at 11:33 am
    • 6 likes
  13. Member

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    Thanks, SQ! Eternal Rest and Perpetual Light, in Peace and Honor! May his name be for a blessing…Hugs for Jo!

    May I add my thoughts? It was a beautiful piece, Susan. Thanks for sharing it. Men like Joe, and women like Jo, are what make this land what it is: A Light Unto The Nations. Bless you for telling this story. And God Bless them for contributing so much to its continuation. Peace be unto his memory!

    • #13
    • April 13, 2018 at 12:59 pm
    • 5 likes
  14. Coolidge

    We are further from WWII today than we were from WWI when I was born only 54 years ago. These guys are almost all gone.

    • #14
    • April 13, 2018 at 1:29 pm
    • 4 likes
  15. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    George Townsend (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    Thanks, SQ! Eternal Rest and Perpetual Light, in Peace and Honor! May his name be for a blessing…Hugs for Jo!

    May I add my thoughts? It was a beautiful piece, Susan. Thanks for sharing it. Men like Joe, and women like Jo, are what make this land what it is: A Light Unto The Nations. Bless you for telling this story. And God Bless them for contributing so much to its continuation. Peace be unto his memory!

    Thanks, George. I could write another whole essay on Jo and what a terrific woman she is. Maybe I will someday.

    • #15
    • April 13, 2018 at 1:46 pm
    • 4 likes
  16. Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    George Townsend (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    Thanks, SQ! Eternal Rest and Perpetual Light, in Peace and Honor! May his name be for a blessing…Hugs for Jo!

    May I add my thoughts? It was a beautiful piece, Susan. Thanks for sharing it. Men like Joe, and women like Jo, are what make this land what it is: A Light Unto The Nations. Bless you for telling this story. And God Bless them for contributing so much to its continuation. Peace be unto his memory!

    Thanks, George. I could write another whole essay on Jo and what a terrific woman she is. Maybe I will someday.

    You really should. It is the people, along with ideals of our revered documents, that keep this country strong and vibrant. We mustn’t ever lose that. Europe has lost her vibrancy. We dare not be next! 

    • #16
    • April 13, 2018 at 1:58 pm
    • 3 likes
  17. Member

    Skyler (View Comment):

    We are further from WWII today than we were from WWI when I was born only 54 years ago. These guys are almost all gone.

    Back in the 1960s I was at my public library, checking out a collection of short stories about aerial warfare in WWI by Arch Whitehouse. The guy behind me was an older guy in his late sixties. He looked and the book and started reminiscing. Turned out he had been a flyer in the US Air Service in Europe back then. (I asked him if he had served with Rickenbacker or Luke, but he told me they were in other squadrons – and that he flew DH-4s.)

    That could have happened in this country twenty years ago with WWII vets, but not now. I cannot see an eight-year-old boy in 2018 checking out a book of air war stories about the Vietnam War. Don’t think things have changed for the better since the 1960s in some ways.

    • #17
    • April 13, 2018 at 2:09 pm
    • 7 likes
  18. Thatcher

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    We are further from WWII today than we were from WWI when I was born only 54 years ago. These guys are almost all gone.

    Back in the 1960s I was at my public library, checking out a collection of short stories about aerial warfare in WWI by Arch Whitehouse. The guy behind me was an older guy in his late sixties. He looked and the book and started reminiscing. Turned out he had been a flyer in the US Air Service in Europe back then. (I asked him if he had served with Rickenbacker or Luke, but he told me they were in other squadrons – and that he flew DH-4s.)

    That could have happened in this country twenty years ago with WWII vets, but not now. I cannot see an eight-year-old boy in 2018 checking out a book of air war stories about the Vietnam War. Don’t think things have changed for the better since the 1960s in some ways.

    Back in the 70s, when my family was on vacation in Florida, we dropped in on someone who had worked with Dad and retired to a houseboat. He had flown P-38s in the South Pacific during the war. I was reading Martin Caidin’s Fork-Tailed Devil: the P-38 at the time and spent the afternoon geeking out with all kinds of questions.

    Best day of the vacation.

    • #18
    • April 13, 2018 at 3:15 pm
    • 6 likes
  19. Member

    May he rest in peace.

    • #19
    • April 13, 2018 at 4:44 pm
    • 4 likes
  20. Coolidge

    Percival (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    We are further from WWII today than we were from WWI when I was born only 54 years ago. These guys are almost all gone.

    Back in the 1960s I was at my public library, checking out a collection of short stories about aerial warfare in WWI by Arch Whitehouse. The guy behind me was an older guy in his late sixties. He looked and the book and started reminiscing. Turned out he had been a flyer in the US Air Service in Europe back then. (I asked him if he had served with Rickenbacker or Luke, but he told me they were in other squadrons – and that he flew DH-4s.)

    That could have happened in this country twenty years ago with WWII vets, but not now. I cannot see an eight-year-old boy in 2018 checking out a book of air war stories about the Vietnam War. Don’t think things have changed for the better since the 1960s in some ways.

    Back in the 70s, when my family was on vacation in Florida, we dropped in on someone who had worked with Dad and retired to a houseboat. He had flown P-38s in the South Pacific during the war. I was reading Martin Caidin’s Fork-Tailed Devil: the P-38 at the time and spent the afternoon geeking out with all kinds of questions.

    Best day of the vacation.

    My dad had a friend who had flown F4U Corsairs over Japan in the last part of the war. He told me that he remembered strafing a train one time and part of the train’s boiler flew up and hit his wing. He said he felt so comfortable flying the plane that he had to resist the urge to crawl out on the wing to fix it.

    Then there was the sailor who served on an LST off the coast of Okinawa. He happened to sit next to me at the bar before the crowds came in and told me the story about the Marines on board being so happy the skipper treated them well, that the night before they landed they offered to “take care” of the martinet XO who made their lives difficult. Although they hated their XO, they assured the Marines that they didn’t so that nothing would happen to him.

    Those are the stories that won’t ever get into history books.

    • #20
    • April 13, 2018 at 6:39 pm
    • 3 likes
  21. Member

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    A lovely tribute Susan. I would have liked to have known Joe.

    That is an amazing and touching story – thank you so much for sharing it – God bless Joe.

    • #21
    • April 14, 2018 at 8:38 am
    • 2 likes
  22. Coolidge
    TBA

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    kidCoder (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    A good tribute. It’s good to learn about these people. Did Joe ever tell what joke got him the rifle butt?

    Curious minds want to know!

    It probably did not matter. By early 1944, the Germans were . . . displeased, to put it mildly . . . with the bombing raids they were suffering. Anything would get you a rifle butt – if you were lucky. Many downed airmen were lynched by civilian mobs or shot out of hand by military personnel after they landed. For some reason, that they were getting back with interest what they had paid out at Warsaw, Rotterdam, and Coventry did not register with these people.

    It’s possible that the average Kraut didn’t know specifics about Warsaw, Rotterdam, and Coventry. When my wife was stationed in Bitburg she heard that some farmers in Speicher lynched one of our downed pilots, and that our bomber crews adopted a ‘save a bomb for Speicher’ policy for when they returned from a run. 

    • #22
    • April 14, 2018 at 3:25 pm
    • 2 likes
  23. Coolidge
    TBA

    Unbroken and undimmed. 

    • #23
    • April 14, 2018 at 3:31 pm
    • 2 likes