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Joseph: The man

Posted: February 11, 2016 4:27 p.m.
Updated: February 12, 2016 1:00 a.m.

A little more than three months ago, my siblings and I found ourselves in a familiar but unwelcome place -- the hallway of the cardiac intensive- care unit at Providence Hospital in Columbia. Much to our despair, our father had just suffered his third heart attack, 35 years separating the third from his first.

When we were finally able to visit and my dad was able to speak, something he said to me has continued to be amplified in my thoughts. It was actually his first words to me, “Well Poo, I’m going to have to quit working.” (If you must know, “Poo” was his nickname for me.) My dad was going to finally retire. It was hard to believe and honestly, a bit sad to hear him say those words.

I imagine my sentiments are similar to many. But for nearly 63 years, practicing law was what he did day after day from his days as a JAG in the United States Air Force to his private practice in Columbia. It was evident to see during the years he loved what he did every day. 

Hard work and working hard is what he knew to be a truth in life and he instilled this ethic in his three children. A prominent trait of my father’s which has resonated with me in my life is one of altruism and service to community.

His outward generosity of his enormous time commitment in serving his community has left a wonderful imprint on me as a child and an adult. From an early age, my father has shown me the authentic definition of giving back and service to others. He set this moral climate of charity in our house and we learned by his lifetime example. 

I could never do his years of benevolence justice in such few words, so I will hit what lies in my memory as the bright spots. At a very young age, I adored attending Sertoma events with my dad. I always thought the word “Sertoma” to be a curious one until finally asking my father the meaning. Perhaps a curious word at first but not after you know three very important words that come together in unison: SERvice TO MAnkind -- Sertoma. Sertoma’s primary service project is assisting the more than 50 million people with speech, hearing and language disorders in addition to sponsoring community projects to promote freedom and democracy, youth causes, and a variety of other local community needs.

“Service to mankind” was at the top of my father’s list and I wanted to tag along right behind him. The year I was born, my father served as international director and later as district governor. He continued his service by his service to South Carolina’s higher education system. He is chairman emeritus of the board of trustees of the College of Charleston, having served on this board for more than 25 years. The College of Charleston awarded him an honorary degree in 1994 and a residence hall was named in his honor in 1999. These honors have been bestowed upon him for his generous donation of enormous time.

He has been honored at Coastal Carolina University as an Honorary Founder and Lander University awarded him an honorary degree in 1989, all for his charitable giving of his time and service. I followed behind him and beside him during his service at the American Red Cross, Trinity Episcopal Church, United Way and many others. I could never give his service the time it deserves. 

My father always taught us a love and support of our faith, the importance of our family and friends, and the necessity of giving back to our community and those in need. My father once said, “Never believe that a few caring people can not change the world, for they have.” I thank him for instilling in me our duty of service to others. I know as he enters retirement, he will continue to leave his positive imprint of giving on many around him.

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