Thursday, November 05, 2009

Joseph Stiffler, R.I.P.

A brilliant light has gone out. Our dear friend Joe Stiffler died Tuesday here in San Miguel de Allende. Joe felt like a life long friend although we probably have only known him for six or seven years. Actually I felt we knew him before we met him. He and a business partner had rented a house here that they shared. A couple of months for David and a couple of months for Joe. I met David and some of his friends and they all talked about "Just wait until you meet Joe." My expectations of Joe paled to the real thing.

Joe dressed in bright colors, wore shorts most of the time. Spikey white hair. Black rimmed glasses, baby blue eyes, and a deep tan. He was always remembered in every shop he went to. Joe was a collector and had been all his life. His Mexican folk art collection is outstanding but that isn't all he collected. He had collections from the USA, Africa and Japan as well. He had been an interior designer with an architectural firm and his sense of color and style was perfect. And he loved color. While he was here we saw him in three different houses and each one was transformed with color.

But the most wonderful thing about Joe was his warmth and generosity with everyone. If someone needed something, Joe would take care of it. When I broke my ankle, Joe decided that Ned needed help taking care of me so he sent his gardener over one day a week to help so Ned didn't have to worry about the garden. While we were in Texas while Ned had medical treatment, some graffiti was painted on the house. Joe matched the paint and had the gardener paint over it. I think everyone who knew Joe could tell a story about his generosity.

If Joe brought food to a party it was "decorated." I remember one Christmas when he arrived with a basket of some kind of goodies and the basket was decorated with colorful paper swirls. It was a work of art. No one wanted to eat anything out of the basket because it was so beautiful. Joe was energy. Joe was color. Joe was excitement. When Joe arrived it was time for the party to begin.

Joe and I liked to cook and somehow we started teasing about whose food was better. It spurred each of us on. Joe was formidable competition. One year I made a mistake and gave Joe a cooking magazine filled with chocolate recipes. That started a stampede. Which ever one of us cooked one of the recipes first "owned" the recipe. And a few times we gave a party together and it was always fun to collaborate with him. But our friendship with Joe also included a lot of small dinners and long conversations.

A couple of years ago, six of us traveled to Guatemala. Joe was a great traveling companion. He would disappear while we were shopping and when he came back he had found this out-of-the-way fabric shop or leather shop or folk art piece to share with the rest of us. I don't know how he did it. His sense of style just seemed to lead him to the unique places even if he didn't speak the language.

One Christmas when we arrived in Houston, Betsy, my daughter-in-law asked what Joe was doing for Christmas. We said he was complaining that all of his friends were leaving for the holidays. Betsy picked up the phone and called him to invite him to join us. Joe could do things on the spur of the moment and he said yes. He became a part of a wonderful family Christmas. Of course, he found out things about us that he could tease us about for the next two years.

There are so many more stories to tell but I'll stop. Joe was a unique soul, a wonderful and generous friend. I'll miss him everyday.

To read some other stories about Joe, click here and here.

10 comments:

Babs said...

Well Billie, I've managed "to keep it together" until I read this. The tears are flowing.......

richland said...

Beautifully done Billie. You so captured Joe.

Nancy said...

What a beautiful post, Billie. And with people like you remembering him every day, he will really still be with you.

glorv1 said...

What a wonderful tribue to Joe. Immediately I liked Joe because of you vivid description of how he was. I'm sorry for your loss. Joe seemed to be a wonderful soul. His spirit lives on everytime you think of him. Joe was my dad's name. Thanks for sharing.

Steve Cotton said...

He was one of the people I was looking forward to meeting when I get up your way.

Debbie said...

What beautiful words for a beautiful man. We are so very glad to have known him and experienced his "color" and spirit. Thanks Billie, you've captured the real Joe.

Adrian Stiffler said...

I am Joes nephew and it so comforting to hear What everybody has to say about him. He was such a wonderful person with class that most people only wish they had. he could walk into a room and people instantly new that he was someone they had to meet. His style and charm puts a new meaning to the words. Joe new ther was a way to every persons heart and he would find it. You may not have agreed with everything you said but that was ok because he told it how it was like it or not. He will greatly missed by all his family and freinds for those who were lucky enough to have him in their lives. God bless Uncle Joe We love you!!!

Heather said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. He sounds like an amazing person.

Billie said...

To all of you, thank you.

Adrian, Joe was amazing and the longer you knew him the more amazing he was. His knowledge of so many subjects was vast. I remember one rainy night in Guatemala that he and someone who had sung with the Houston Opera entertained us for hours with behind the scenes stories from operas as well as knowledge about the music. I'm so sorry for your loss. Your Mom and Dad are great so give them a big hug when they get home.

Tami Davis said...

Joe was always very dear to me. One of those older cousins that as a young child I remember looking up to. I loved his glowing personality, his passion for life and the arts. I unfortunately hadn't seen Joe since he moved to Mexico. We had a wonderful visit on the phone this summer and he shared his excitement about his new home that he was completing and our hopes that we would be able to come visit him there. I'm so glad that Wayne was there to share a wonderful party at Joe's new home. I'm so glad they had that time together...and all of you dear friends that know what a wonderful person Joe was. Thank you for sharing your love and stories of my dear cousin...he will always have a special place in my heart. Tami (Kinnison) Davis