That’s all, Folks
It was the strangest job interview I’d ever had, at a table by the window of the local Tim Hortons with two senior gentlemen, one whose voice was a gravelly whisper due to a medical condition.
“Okay, we’ve got you cornered so you can’t leave,” he joked as we sat down to tea, coffee, and cookies.
We wrote out a mutually agreed upon salary and work week schedule on a paper napkin that day almost five years ago and thus my new adventure as a journalist at Your Local Journal was launched.
Last week, we lost Joe Bissonnette, the raspy-voiced gentleman with the big heart, sharp sense of humour, and mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
Along with his brother Rod, I always thought of the two of them as true outliers, who stubbornly stuck to their guns and did things their own way. I like that in people.
My work week was not complete without a visit from Joe who would come sit in my office for a chat, telling me stories about his youth, or sometimes throwing a new word at me, challenging me for its meaning.
Our mutual love of all things Bugs Bunny peppered most of our conversations and I always knew if Joe was calling my cell phone by the Looney Tunes ringtone, assigned to his number only.
“You tink you tough guy, eh?” he’d say in his best Blacque Jacque Shellacque imitation at my toothpick habit that drives my family crazy.
Getting Joe to laugh was both a challenge and a highlight, and our mutual jokes and insults would often result in stuck-out tongues and rude gestures, the kinds of things you can only pull off with those who truly know you, and like you anyways.
Joe had a deep sense of community and the role of the community newspaper. He had a weakness for the local arts’ scene, particularly the Hudson Village Theatre, and his desire to accentuate the good news stories of the week was often pitted against my preference to put the dramatic fires, highway accidents, and criminal events on the cover.
But perhaps some of our biggest clashes were about this column, where he would often ask me to rein it in, tone it down, or remove one (or more) offending words. He was a critic, but also one of my biggest supporters. As his health declined, he would ask me to email my column before we went to press in retaliation for me teasing him about sneaking swearwords in while he wasn’t looking.
I sent him last week’s column along with the line, “So, when are you getting your lazy arse back in here?” There was no response.
Joe’s face shone the brightest when he talked about his family – Mary, the love of his life, Mike, Jo-Ann, and Monique, his three kids, and all the grandkids, especially his newest grandson whose chubby-cheeked face would grace his cellphone photo album. “I am surrounded by love,” he once told me and though physically he wasn’t well, his heart was strong.
While he would counsel me not to suffer fools, in recognizing that my temper can easily get the best of me, he would often urge me to “Be kind.”
Joe, some days it’s so much easier than others but I’m trying.