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October 2007

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Rest in Peace, Joe - October 31

I have apparently had my head in the sand this week. I didn't learn until this afternoon of the death on Sunday of my friend Joe Herzenberg. The news makes me very sad.

Other people who knew him far better than I did have spoken of him. Gerry Cohen, whose resignation from the Chapel Hill Town Council led to Joe's being appointed to finish the term, has gathered many links. For other links, I would suggest you go to this Google page.

My memories of Joe began when he was leading the Democratic precinct in Chapel Hill when I was working at Non-Profit Agency #1. He didn't have to try hard to find out my own politics, though I had to officially keep my mouth shut while on the job. But he knew he had an ally in me.

When I was off the premises of the agency, I could and did quite happily wish him luck in his run for Chapel Hill Town Council. But he lost. So the next time he was running, I saw him and said, "Joe, I can't wish you luck this time. I'm afraid it might jinx things." He understood exactly what I meant. He went on to become the first openly gay person elected to office in North Carolina.

Then there came a day when he was by the agency office and brought me presents, campaign buttons from the Mondale-Ferraro ticket and the Hunt for Senate campaign (when former Governor Jim Hunt was trying to defeat Jesse Helms). I had to be careful not to wear them when I was at work, but they were with me anyway, pinned to my handbag. After the election, those two buttons wound up on my kitchen bulletin board, where you'll still find them.

I will leave it to others to talk of his many contributions to politics, civil rights, and other causes. I will just say I had no reason to disagree with him.

Joe no doubt had some political enemies. But he had a lot of friends. He was a kind and gentle person, and had one of those smiles that lit his whole face. And if he liked you, you knew it.

He will be long remembered, and sorely missed.

Text copyright 2000-2007 Becky