My friend, Joe Peterson, died a couple days ago. Joe and his wife Kay founded the Escapees Club many years ago. Joe was an electrician at that time. He and Kay were living full time in a trailer as they followed the construction jobs around the country. They started the Escapees Club simply as a way for full-timers to exchange information and help each other survive this wonderful lifestyle. The club has grown to tens of thousands of members. And every one of them will tell you they were Joe’s friend. And they were. Everyone loved Joe and he loved them. He was that kind of a man.
Vicki and I first met Joe and Kay about 15 years ago when we first started presenting RV lifestyle seminars at RV shows, rallies and educational events. They would do seminars on full-timing; we would do seminars on choosing an RV, places to go, and things to see and do.
Joe and Kay, knowing that we were just starting out, were very generous with their advice. Kay would usually wait until we asked. Joe would simply jump in and tell us what we should do. A great deal of our success in the seminar and writing business is due to their guidance and advice.
We loved to watch their seminars. They took turns speaking. Kay was a serious public speaker. It showed in her carefully prepared presentations. Joe just liked to talk to people. Kay would tell stories with a moral; usually one that encouraged folks to make their dreams come true (and many did). Joe liked to tell funny stories and jokes… simply to get a laugh (and he always did). Kay delivered her message seemingly without referring to notes. Joe always had a small stack of 3-by-5 cards that he would pull from his shirt pocket and read from. Later, I came to the conclusion the cards were not because he couldn’t remember his lines but to keep him on message instead of getting distracted and telling funny stories and jokes (no doubt Kay’s idea). It wasn’t always successful. Sometimes Joe just couldn’t help himself.
The four of us always made a point of getting together for at least one dinner while we were at a speaking event. We would go into a restaurant and before we had settled into our chairs Joe would start telling his jokes and funny stories. It wasn’t just his jokes, some were pretty corny, but his delivery that kept me laughing. The more I laughed the more jokes he would tell. Kay and Vicki would just sit there and roll their eyes while tears rolled from mine. No telling how many times Kay had heard those same stories. But we could tell she secretly enjoyed the pleasure he derived from telling them.
The last time we had dinner together was in a restaurant in Livingston, Texas. Joe was a devout Texan (as only Texans can be). Joe had just turned eighty and his memory wasn’t as good as it had been. I wondered if he would remember all his jokes. Wouldn’t you know? He pulled a stack of 3-by-5 cards out of his shirt pocket and said “If I told you this one before, don’t stop me…”
Joe's poorly funtioning heart failed him during surgery for a leaking aneurism. His daughter, Cathie Carr, wrote: "Just so you know, his blue eyes sparked bright with his kiss goodbye, and as he was wheeled off to surgery he was telling the surgeons a joke."
I can just see Joe arriving at the Pearly Gates. When St Peter asks him where he is from; Joe will pull a stack of 3-by5 cards from his shirt pocket and say “My daddy told me to never ask a man where he is from. If he is from Texas, he’ll tell you. If he isn’t… well, you don’t want to embarrass him.”
We’ll miss you, Joe.
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