Upstairs in the boys’ bedroom of our tri-level rental house Joe (22 years old at the time) and I tussled: shuffling around the floor. I had juice and hard candy in my hands, while he had both fists attached to noodle arms up in the air resembling a strange form of contemporary dance. As we circled the room, I continued failed attempts at getting either juice or hard candy into his mouth while he persisted in telling me he was fine, with the infamous “Joe grin” while giggling and making stupid faces: mimicking a young child that didn’t get their way. “I’m fine, Ape!” Joe repeated with random quotes from movies or TV shows like the Three Stooges, making sure to include motions if they applied. Joe was a free spirited, super funny guy but when he was having a Diabetic reaction he was downright hilarious. You never knew what was going to happen next.
Joseph Gregory Farkas, most commonly known as Joe, had many nicknames, but to me his was just Poop (without question by anyone that knew him). Joe was the second oldest of my four brothers, that so diligently allowed me to tag along with him and his friends as we were growing up. It wasn’t until we both worked at A&W in Twelve Oaks Mall that we really spent a lot of time together. A & W became what most would call the “Farkas Family Restaurant” because five out of the six kids had our first jobs there. Joe was the kind of guy that was always playing practical jokes on everyone at work. One of the best was when Jeremy, his twin brother, and Joe both worked in the kitchen. Joe was a force to be reckoned with as far as jokes go but when you put the two together; you were sure to be rolling on the floor laughing or really pissed off if you were the victim.
It all started one day when Joe got caught in the stock room suspected of eating a burger that he stashed in his apron (which really wasn’t all that uncommon) crumbs on his face along with ketchup and mustard in his apron pocket were a dead giveaway. His punishment was to clean the grease traps, one of the worst jobs in the entire restaurant, while Jeremy manned the grill. The grease traps hold a sticky, gooey concoction of garbage grease, excess food remnants, and black crusty carbon that was scrapped off the grill. As Joe was scrapping the congealed grease out of the traps he noticed it was so dark and spongy, from not being clean the night before, it resembled brownies, sparking an idea he was convinced Jeremy would help him pull off. Being close to lunch time they were both certain Tom Kanthe, close friend and co-worker, would be ready for a snack. They presented the square, they meticulously shaped and placed on a plate, to him. Just as Tom was about to sink his teeth into the grease brownie he noticed Joe laughing, mouth gaping, tongue hanging out like a dog out the window of a car. Unfortunately for Tom, that was only one of the many practical jokes he experienced with Joe over the course of 25 plus years.
Joe had such a magnetic personality people would flock to him. There were very few times when the atmosphere that surrounded him wasn’t upbeat and positive. Even when he was upset he would give a sideways glare with puckered lips and furrowed brows in a playful manor. He was the go-to guy for many. Whatever you needed him to be he would become that person; almost like a chameleon. It wasn’t until his funeral that I realized how few people really knew about him.
Joe left Michigan about 14 years ago to head to Colorado with his best friend, Jim Steiner. He had always dreamed of living out west, to experience the beauty of the mountains and wildlife captured in most of his favorite movies; Legend of the Falls, Centennial, and Young Guns to name a few. His experience was everything he had dreamed, with the exception of a long life with a wife and kids. Jim had become Joe’s family, snowboarding whenever possible and spending the majority of their time together. Joe’s life ended shortly after coming down with what he thought was the flu at 39 years young.
There were many people I met at the funeral, held in Colorado, that claimed that Joe was their “best friend”, however, most had no idea who he really was or that he even had Diabetes. Unfortunately, that is just the way Joe preferred it. He didn’t want anyone to be caught up in his drama of illness, he had experience since he was eight years old; battling the side effects and symptoms of juvenile diabetes. The cause of Joe’s death was not from an everyday common cold/flu but rather from Diabetic Ketoacidosis. His insulin pump stopped working properly, denying his body insulin, in a frenzied state of hunger his body had to break down fat for energy. During that process the body produced acids that over time became poisonous. Joe was a small man in stature, only standing 5 feet 8 inches, maybe 150 pounds soaking wet. Needless to say it didn’t take very long for the poison to take effect.
Friends and family members were invited to share a story or two of adventures they had shared with Joe throughout his life. In my experience at funerals, it is pretty uncommon to laugh but Joe would not have it any other way. He was a man that lived life to the fullest and will be forever in the hearts of those he came in contact with.
*Some of the text may not be exactly what happened, just what I remember from stories. Please feel free to share your story of Joe, try to keep it clean. (wink)