I have been in Penticton over the last two weeks to say goodbye to my longtime friend Joe Hirmer. I was grateful for the opportunity to say goodbye one last time before he passed, and I was honoured to be with him during his final moments.
I have known Joe, Jean and their family since I moved next door to them on 6 road when I was 3 1/2 years old. I spent much of my childhood and teens at the Hirmer household where I was always welcome. Joe was like my surrogate father (I did not meet my own father until I was 13), and was my mentor and friend.
When I was younger, I picked blueberries in the morning and kept the berry patch bird free with my pellet gun in the afternoon. Early in my teens, I graduated to helping Joe tend his 300+ beehives during the summers. We would move them from winter storage, first to the blueberry fields, then the cranberries, and finally to the mountains in Pemberton (Fire-weed honey – yum!).
A lot of my teen summer months were also spent helping Joe and his son Rick in the masonry trade. I would mix mud (never got to the point of doing that task well), point the placed bricks and stone, and latter was promoted to actually placing brick and stone. Joe taught me the value of hard work and doing things properly the first time. He was a patient and kind man. He was a gentleman.
He was also a handy-man and taught me many skills that I still use today. More importantly, he taught me to never be afraid to try a task, who knows, you actually may be good at it. I remember when Joe talked me through replacing all of the plumbing in my house at the age of 13. He did not help, just told me how to do it and arranged to get the jackhammer and soldering torch for me.
Joe and Jean also demonstrated what a healthy marriage looked like. He taught me it is OK to demonstrate affection and feelings. Joe was also very generous and anyone who stopped by his house was always welcome at the Hirmer table. Joe used to say that “no one would go hungry at his house” and he always put out a “good spread”.
Joe’s health has declined over the last 4 years as he suffered from Parkinson’s and the start of Alzheimer’s. I am grateful that I took the opportunity as often as possible to go up and visit Joe and Jean over this time. And I am now great-full that Joe has now been set free from a failing body he desperately wanted to escape. My one regret is that Joe has passed before I have finished my home, because I know he would have been proud of what I had accomplished with many of the skills he taught me.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Jean and the large extended family Joe has left behind. Having spent most of the last two weeks with many of you, I know how hard this loss will be.
Joe was a great man, and I loved him and will miss him dearly. Sweet dreams my friend.
“Each of us can look back upon someone who made a great difference in our lives, someone whose wisdom or simple acts of caring made an impression upon us. In all likelihood it was someone who sought no recognition for their deed other than the joy of knowing that, by their hand, another’s life had been made better.” —Stephen M. Wolf (born 1941) American Businessman