When I received the call that Uncle Joe had passed, different emotions ran through my mind. This could not be possible, Uncle Joe was invincible, bigger than life, yet the reality is he is gone - however, his memory will live forever in the chasms of my mind and, I"m sure, all of yours.
Uncle Joe, when I think of you I see you sitting on a couch with a baby nestled in the cradle of your folded legs, singing "Tora-lora-lora. How many of us in this church at one time, was that baby or the parent of that child, feeling and knowing that baby is safe and secure?.
As a child and even as an adult I loved to listen to Uncle Joe tell stories. My favorite was the one about when he was a marine stationed in Australia during WWII. A volunteer was called for from the crowd to box a specially trained kangaroo and Uncle Joe quickly volunteered. Thinking he was going to knock this kangaroo out, he put on boxing gloves and approached the kangaroo. Before he could throw a punch, he was knocked unconscious, yet another victim of the kangaroo. I"m sure everyone here has their own favorite "Joe Kelly" story.
I also have this picture of Uncle Joe at the beach in Reiis Park, sitting on the sand under his umbrella, wearing long khaki pants, socks, sneakers, a hat, and cream on his nose should the sun miraculously penetrate his coat of armor. But it never felt so good lying on that beach next to Uncle Joe, listening to the ocean with one ear and the transistor radio with the other.
Ah Brooklyn - 86th Street, Reliable Pizza, Spumoni Gardens, riding the Belt Parkway to Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Joe's apartment. I can still see Uncle Joe sitting on the couch, under the picture of workers sleeping in the field, watching Mitch Miller or Lawrence Welk on the console TV. It was the best of times.
Uncle Joe was everyone's friend, he was the rock that everyone, family or friend, could lean on. He was there to help - no strings attached, no judgment passed, no questions asked except what do you need or where do you need me.