This is a Personal Post in memoriam of my friend, Joe Westom.
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
It’s been difficult, but I’ve managed to not write anything about or to Joe since Alex Durkee called me about Joe’s accident. It’s been hard because there is so much I wanted to say, but wanted to say to Joe. I enjoy reading all of the Guestbook messages each day; it makes me so happy to know that so many others feel as I do about Joe. It was a good decision for the doctors to restrict visits to family only—the number of “visits” to his support page tell of the love for Joe, and I believe that each of the 9,317 “visits” would have been ten thousand people going to Joe if the doctors had allowed it.
I wanted to take this time to reflect on my love for Joe, and to share some of my memories of him so they are not forgotten. First, one of the reasons I didn’t want to post any public messages goes back to our high school wrestling days. Many of you won’t know this, but Joe had a funny idiosyncrasy about people cheering for him during his match. For home matches, it was actually quite the scene. For every match, people scream and yell, offer hold suggestions, encouragement—but when Joe was up, the auditorium fell mostly silent—even his coach had to ‘try’ to refrain from barking orders at him. Then, as now, I would wait until it was over—until he would win, or lose, and either way I would be there to congratulate him for his resolute effort. Today, he lost his match, but I am here to congratulate him for the fight.
The qualities that attract us to Joe are known to all—his unwavering loyalty, reliability, and faithfulness to his friends and family. When I tell people that I’m from Portland, they inevitably ask “do you go back often?” To which I reply, not often, and explain that there are only 3 reasons that I go back to Portland—to see my brother, a family friend, and Joe. As you all know, Joe is the glue that holds many people not only to Portland, but to each other as well. His affable character forms the bond that keeps everyone together.
Some of you may see or hear vague references to “WWB”, and don’t understand what that means. Largely, it began as somewhat of a joke—a way to physically represent the bond shared among some of us and impossible to fully understand. This token created a “team” of brothers—not in blood but in bond. Today is the first day that one of our brothers has fallen—I have dreaded the thought of this day. But…“It ain’t easy having pals.”
My memories of Joe’s character are still reaffirmed to this day. Even recently, the last two times I came to Portland and saw Joe, our bond and this friendship was confirmed immutable. I remember only visiting for a few days for a conference in downtown Portland, but seeing Joe several times. Even one night, close to midnight, when I texted him that I was bored in my hotel alone, and he asked if I wanted to see him—of course I did and he came downtown to take us out until [too] late in the night. He was always there for you.
And now, I will hold to my last memory of him, at my mother’s own funeral where he came to support me in my time of need of his friendship. And before we last parted we talked about his long-overdue trip to San Diego to visit me—in fact, when I decided to move, Joe and I drove down here together to stay with Brent Stewart (WWB!)—and my final interaction with Joe in this life was a hug goodbye; I will treasure this memory.
All of you will have your own stories to tell that paint the picture of his life and what he meant to so many people. It’s hard to come to a conclusion to this because there is so much I wish I could say, and I know that this, for me, will close the first part of a major chapter of my life.
To conclude, my story of Joe is not one of “me and him”—it comprises tales that include everyone that knew him, because we are all connected through him. Many of the tales will become legend, and some lore—and my enduring commemoration to his influence on my life will be to impart what he taught me about friendship and love. When I envisage this, I see ten thousand people who loved him—and I see Joe.