EASLEY — It is said a city can stand only as tall as the pillars of its community. If there’s any truth to those words, the city of Easley is a little less now than it was following the loss of Joe Lesley, one of the area’s most beloved citizens.
The man who never met a stranger, treated everyone like family and always had a kind word at the ready was laid to rest after a hard fought battle with cancer.
News of his death spread quickly throughout the region and before long flowers started appearing outside of the iconic ice cream parlor on Main Street that he ran for more than 40 years.
“I knew Joe for almost 50 years and I never met a kinder soul,” said Easley City Councilman Terry Moore. “He was the real deal and I’m going to miss him terribly. We all will.”
Never one to miss a good opportunity for a laugh, Joe had a knack for bringing a smile to your face and almost a sixth sense about when someone was troubled.
“He could tell,” said Moore. “If you walked in and seemed a little down, he was there with an encouraging word or maybe even a little sarcastic jab — whatever was needed to cheer you up. There wasn’t a mean bone in the man’s body. That’s a rare thing nowadays, you know?”
In the weeks before Joe’s passing, the City of Easley had planned to name a street after him in the J.B. Red Owens Sports Complex as a thank you for his years of support with youth athletics.
“I don’t know if he knew about that (the street sign) or not,” said Moore. “I hope he did. It was never supposed to be a memorial like this. We wanted to thank him while he was still here. He left us all too soon.”
“Too soon” seems to be the echoing statement of those who knew and loved him best, and rightfully so.
Joe’s memorial service was practically overflowing, a testament to how many lives he had touched upon throughout the years. Many had met the man only once or twice — and yet still felt a connection along with a deep sense of loss.
“I used to bring my kids here for ice cream years ago when they were little,” said Helen Brown-Haymaker, who drove in from Asheville to pay her respects. “I heard about his dying on Facebook and I just felt like I needed to be here. My kids are all grown up now, but when I told them about his passing they still called him ‘Papa Joe.’”
Although the world is a sadder place without Joe here, it ultimately was made a better one for it.
We’ll miss you, Joe.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.