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Dear family and friends of Joe's:

Today, October 13, 2009, is Joe's 29th birthday. It is his first birthday without him.

In honor of Joe's birthday I want to post my words of love and commemoration that I spoke at the Memorial Service for Joe on February 7, 2009 at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Orange NJ.

Grover Furr


Words at Memorial Service for Joe

* It is wonderful to see you all here. So many, many family, friends, colleagues, comrades.

* My name is Grover Furr. We are here to celebrate the life of a wonderful young man – Joseph Gracchus Furr, my younger son. We are here to remember, and to rejoice.

* Joe was handsome. He was strong. He had a big, warm big smile. He was friendly, and generous.

* Joe had many friends. He had a loving, supportive family. Joe wanted to be surrounded by friends, co-workers, family. Joe liked others and was liked by others.

* Joe was blessed to have a wonderful beloved person, Shanise. Joe was so lucky to find her. So are we.

Shanise and Joe have a little terrier. Jack was to take the place of children, who would have to wait till Shanise finished nursing school and Joe and she could be together, get married and start a family.

Shanise, please tell Jack that his Grandpop remembered to name him!

Shanise is now our daughter. We are inseparable.

* Joe was only 28 years old when he died. The injustice – the thing that is not fair -- is that Joe’s life was not three times as long. It was far too short. I had thought he would be speaking at my Memorial Service, not I at his.

No one in this world let Joe down. His diabetes, so unpredictable in its consequences, betrayed him when it was least expected – at home, in the comfort of his apartment and bed.

* But for those 28 years Joe had a fine, happy, rewarding life. Joe gave us all love and support. And Joe had all the love and support he needed to get him through the rough patches that everyone faces. He had a bright future ahead of him.

I was very close to him. I saw him every week, and spoke to him about every other day. I am his "Pop." I looked after him as best I could, given that he was 28 years old, not a child any longer, not someone to be "hovered over."

I miss Joe terribly.

Joe was wonderful. He was, also, "a work in progress." He had more maturing, more seasoning, to do. But he was developing positively. He was heading in a good direction. Joe’s prospects for a happy, productive, engaged future life were excellent ones.

Joe was born with a significant learning disability. When he was a toddler, his doctors wondered whether he would even be able to finish school.

Joe triumphed despite his learning disability. He worked hard! And he had the support of loving teachers, like Ms Brown; wonderful tutors, like Debbie and Lauren; and of us, his family.

It was hard for Joe to get through Essex County Vo-Tech, and then through Lincoln Tech, and finally through Engine City Technical College. With his own determination, and with our help, he did it.

He found his life calling – diesel mechanic. He worked at it full-time for more than two years. When he was laid off he began studying for his ASE exams, so as to come back to work more qualified than before. Joe was determined to be a master diesel mechanic. This is a worthy aspiration. I am confident that Joe would have reached that goal.

Joe is an example of what a child with a significant learning disability can achieve – IF that child receives the special care, instruction, and support that every child in this country, in this world, deserves, but which so very, very many are denied.

Joe should inspire us, who knew and loved him, to fight for a world in which every child can reach his or her potential.

There is an old bit of wisdom that goes like this. "No person’s life can be assessed until that life is over."

Joe has run his race. He ran it hard, and well. He ran it all his life. He ran it with all the vigor, enthusiasm, high spirits, and pure joy that we all saw in him.

Now he has reached the finish line. Now we can state, with confidence: Joe won that race! Joe’s life was a triumph – a success.

So I conclude with these words for my son Joe:

"Well done, Joe! You did more than anyone would have predicted. You exceeded our expectations.

You accomplished a lot! You worked hard, and achieved your goal of becoming a skilled diesel mechanic.

You earned the respect of your coworkers. You won the love of a wonderful young woman. You loved greatly – and you were greatly loved.

We who knew you best, we who loved you best, are proud of you, today and always. You live still in our hearts and our lives. You inspire us with love and with the determination that you showed.

Your Dad is so proud of you. Today, and forever.

Well done, Joe! Well done, my boy!"