Joe Geese

Joe Geese

This is the first time I've ever included a disclaimer in Spotlight, but since I was warned that this individual has a reputation as a jokester/leg-puller/storyteller, I extracted a promise he wouldn't pull any shenanigans but would tell me “nothing but the truth” during the interview.

Ralph Joseph Geese, was born in Columbus, Ohio on December 25, 1945 which, according to family lore, was the worst Christmas weather ever and came close to being born in a snowbank. Named for his father, a paving contractor, he missed being a “junior” when he was given a middle name instead of just an initial. His mother, a former beautician turned homemaker/family business bookkeeper had dreamed of a large family with at least five children. Joe, as he was destined to be called, with only one older brother, prompted her to rethink this vision in a hurry. The couple raised their sons in the farming community of Hilliard, Ohio (suburb of Columbus). Located on the railroad, it consisted of about 350 people and two grain elevators. Typical of small-town America in the 1950's, the boys were safe and free to wander doing whatever all young kids do where the entire town takes a hand in correcting and watching over its children. The saying, “it takes a village,” was serious business there. It was an established fact that any kid who got into trouble would be dealt with promptly and also again at home as news of the disturbance would herald their arrival. When he was 12 or 13, he worked on his uncle's farm for 50 cents a week, including room and board. Pitching hay, milking cows, stomping down silage was hard work in the grueling heat but he was young, strong and survived. During his teen years he worked for his Dad paving driveways and parking lots. Joe aspired to become a businessman like his Dad and until circumstances changed his direction in life, was working toward this very goal.

Joe began first grade in the local school at age five and graduated high school in 1964. After high school graduation, he enrolled in The Ohio State University in Columbus with a focus on Industrial Arts and played baritone in the marching band. He still has his scarlet beret each member was issued and has great memories of being a member of TBDBITL (The Best D… Band In The Land). While Joe exceeded in mathematics and other subjects, English posed quite a challenge for him. After completing his first year at that school, with Uncle Sam actively sending out “invitations” to his fellow classmates, he decided to transfer to Ohio University in Athens. He was in the middle of that process when he received his draft notice.

Joe joined the United States Air Force in 1965 and was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for basic training. Since his highest test scores were in math, and he showed great strength in logic, he was initially placed in electronics school. He trained for a year at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi as an airborne radar navigator before being bounced around for the next 19 years between the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Eielson AFB, Korot Royal Thai AFB in Korot, Thailand, Charleston AFB in South Carolina, back to Eielson again, Fairchild AFB in Spokane and finally, at long last, Eielson AFB for a final time. Joe retired from the United States Air Force as an E-7 Master Sargent in February Eielson AFB! These years were rewarding, frustrating, enlightening and always educational. Somehow, in 1990, Joe managed to obtain his Bachelor's degree in Business Management plus complete all the courses entitling him to a degree in Human Resource Management from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Those, plus his two year electronics degrees (Applied Sciences), courtesy of the United States Air Force proves that being good in English isn't everything!

Flashback to Joe's 8th grade year. He was “just sitting in class minding my own business,” when a new student was ushered in. Before Joe even knew her name, he was struck by the thought that someday he'd marry this girl! Sharon Plummer, daughter of the new pastor of Hilliard United Methodist Church, had unknowingly gob smacked Joe. Lucky for him, his family just happened to belong to that very congregation, so aside from school, was able to spend time with Sharon, becoming an ardent, dedicated, regular attender at the church youth group functions. Eventually, their friendship grew and they became more serious in their high school years. Although Joe had proposed the previous year, together they made the decision to delay their wedding until after he'd completed his military technical school. Sharon's parents consented to the union with the stipulation that Sharon graduate college. They were married August 14, 1966. Always a man of his word, Joe made sure this happened. I asked him outright if Sharon was honestly as nice a person as we find her to be as the Administrative Assistant for Santa's Senior Center and he assured me she was. In fact, he went on to say that his relationship with his wife gives him the greatest pleasure in life. They enjoy being together and Joe is quick to admit he doesn't know what he'd do without her. This doesn't mean they always agree or never have the usual disagreements all long-married couples experience, but it speaks volumes about listening to that still small voice when it speaks....even if you're still in Junior High School! He then went on to share a funny story that demonstrates what a good sport he married. After their wedding, money was tight so they spent their honeymoon camping between Columbus, Ohio and Marquette, Michigan. While Joe loved the out-of-doors, tenting, campfires and bugs, this was definitely outside the comfort zone of his new wife. While in the Detroit area, they decided they'd like to visit the Ford Automotive Museum, so retired for the evening in anticipation of this excursion the next day. In the morning, their camping “neighbors” made the suggestion that the new couple might re-think their decision and wait until AFTER they'd changed into their night clothes to bring the lantern inside their tent. Perhaps this incident is what led to that old song, “Silhouette on the Wall?” Nevertheless, this is one piece of advice they've never forgotten....and still follow to this day!

Eventually, Joe and Sharon were blessed with a son and a daughter who went on to provide them with their three grandchildren. Their older granddaughter recently married so the idea of great grand-parenthood is a good possibility. They are fortunate, indeed, to have all their children and “grand’s” living in the North Pole area. I asked Joe about what makes him the proudest and he responded, “When my kids and grandchildren are honored and recognized. It makes me very happy to hear others compliment members of my family.” As the patriarch of the family, opportunities abound for Joe to pass on advice and suggestions to the younger generations. Recently, he shared the advice he'd given grandson, Ryan. It was, “get a job with a retirement plan. Save. Always tithe first, and then pay yourself next because Uncle Sam will take the rest.” Good advice!

Since his retirement, Joe has continued to draw on his military training and still loves to find solutions to problems. He especially enjoys using his hands and likes wood-working, building, and repairs. Joe still loves to camp, but the couple has moved up a notch, having traded in their tent for a cab-over camper. Eventually, they'd like to get a 5th wheel and do some serious traveling in the Lower 48. His bucket list includes an extensive tour of castle-hopping in Europe and a visit to the Holy Land, via Greece. He enjoys cooking and likes to experiment, using the recipe only as a guideline. Spaghetti and pizza are his favorites and, according to Joe, “could only be improved upon if they were combined into one dish”! While it makes perfect sense as a former Air Force man, I was surprised to learn that Joe has held a private pilot's license since 1973 and that he and a friend experienced an “incident” that led to some unplanned river floating.

A little over a year ago, Joe and Sharon downsized from their 3080 square foot home to their two bedroom apartment at Holiday Heights. Joe still mourns the loss of his hot tub. In fact, he wistfully dreams of someday having a giant tub that he'd build a house around. Being in an apartment complex hasn't taken Joe off the hook for home maintenance. He does all the mowing and maintaining of the lawn and is quick to offer assistance with minor repairs that are continuous in that environment.

Extremely active in the North Pole Assembly of God Church, Joe serves as Senior Elder. He also belongs to the North Pole Area Housing Authority and has served as a Board Member for that organization. Joking aside, I discovered one thing that makes him very emotional and this is his religious commitment. He has strong feelings and beliefs.

Joe joined Santa's Seniors in 2009 and shortly after was elected to the Board of Directors, subsequently serving as President from 2012-2013. At the regularly scheduled Birthday Luncheon he became famous for his “Joke of the Month,” He can be credited with bringing new energy and joy to the membership with his positive attitude and willingness to try new things. Joe doesn't take life too seriously and is quick to share his positive “can-do” attitude with all. If you happen to run into him at the Center, he'll most likely be there on a mission tightening a screw, adjusting a door or fixing something that wobbles. Be sure to thank him for all he quietly does for us behind the scenes.

Interview by Francie Cork
Santa's Senior Photo by Sharon Geese

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