Some of my earliest memories in life are of Joe’s Ice Cream Parlor in Easley.
I remember sitting in a booth, dipping cut up hot dogs in ketchup, watching as my parents laughed and joked with Joe Lesley.
We always went to Joe’s. Everybody in Easley did.
After a legion baseball game…eat at Joe’s. Stay late after a church service?…eat at Joe’s. Ice cream run? You guessed it…Joe’s.
Not only did we get to eat a lot of great food, but we got to meet a lot of great people.
I wouldn’t recall this time in my life as vividly if it hadn’t been for my stint at The Easley Progress years later.
After graduating college, I knew I wanted to be in the news business. It just so happened that the paper my dad had worked for decades ago was hiring.
I was new to Easley, but not really.
I hadn’t spent time there for the better part of 15 years, but like most small towns, Easley hadn’t changed much.
The buildings changed. So did the roads.
But the same friendly faces were still there, which made transitioning to this career much easier.
The same fire chief my dad used to get stories from was the fire chief I relied on for stories. The high school football coach had become the mayor, and that was completely acceptable in this town.
My dad would always say: “Easley is one of the only places where the football coach ought to be the mayor and the mayor ought to be the football coach.”
Over the years, I can’t tell you how many emails and phone calls and visits I got from folks in the community. Everywhere I went, people would stop me and say: “Oh my goodness, I remember when you were this big!”
The community was always asking about my family and what we’d been up to through the years.
It was one of the reasons I avoided Joe’s for so long when I got back to Easley. I wondered whether Joe would even remember me, or if everyone would remember me so well that it would be embarrassing.
When I finally worked up the nerve to return to my family’s favorite hole-in-the-wall, I was surprised by what I found.
I walked in and Joe was standing over the grill—something he spent many years doing. He glanced my way and gave a big smile.
I exchanged a greeting with him, quickly realizing that he remembered me very well. He asked about my parents and my brother, but we didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the past.
Honestly, it was like I’d never left. He treated me like I’d spent the last 20 years coming into Joe’s every day. The same way you’d treat family you haven’t seen in a while.
I’m so grateful for those two years and the opportunity I had to reconnect with an old friend.
This past week, we lost Joe Lesley.
I can’t explain to you what a loss this is.
Joe is a shining example of what it means to be a meaningful part of a community. He loved others just as much as they loved him. And let me tell you, everyone loved Joe.
We should all strive to carry on his legacy by loving our neighbors and helping others.
..And by eating at Joe’s.
Always eat at Joe’s.