Joe sat in front of me in church for nearly 30 years. Literally, right in front of me. My husband and I landed in that spot because with one, then two, then three sons in the pews with us, we wanted to be close enough to the door for a variety of reasons. And then we never left that spot, even as the boys grew up and moved out and it was just the two of us. I tried several times to change seats to get a better view of everything but my husband always refused saying that if we moved our “neighbors” would think we didn’t like them anymore.
I don’t know how Joe and his wife Blanche found their seat. I have no memory of meeting Blanche. She died in 1995 from cancer. Our youngest was born in 1991 so there are a lot of things that I didn’t notice in the early 90s.
Joe was a very (very) generous supporter of our church’s midweek LOGOS program and he didn’t like me to share this with many people. It began with rental minivans for our annual summer youth trips. I don’t know if he convinced his son, owner of a Toyota dealership, to give them to us for free (usually two vans, sometimes three) or if he paid for them himself, but he made it happen. I was talking with him one Sunday before worship, telling him that we had just returned from our week away and had needed to rent a van because a leader’s vehicle had broken down. He said, with a stern “look,” that next year I should come to him ahead of time and he’d arrange for as many vans as we needed for our trip. For free. Toyotas. There was no arguing with Joe.
He provided vans for several years and then I worked up the nerve to tell Joe that it was difficult to drive to Pennsylvania from Maryland to pick up (and return) the vans for these trips and so as much as I appreciated his wonderful generosity, we wouldn’t be using them anymore. So instead, he made a very (very) generous donation toward our fund raising to be sure the transportation was covered. Every year.
The closest Joe ever came to experiencing LOGOS was seeing the swell of children and youth in worship as a result of the ministry. He never came on a Wednesday night to experience it and now I’m regretting not making that happen. And still, his generosity increased.
About 4 years ago, I approached Joe with a need. We had many new families who wanted to bring their children to LOGOS but couldn’t pay the registration fee. We had a scholarship fund but the need was growing and we couldn’t cover it and still pay for the cost to maintain the program. Joe was a “bottom line” kind of guy and wanted to know how much we needed. $10,000? I assured him we didn’t require anywhere near that amount. $5,000? Closer, but still not likely that much. He insisted on that amount and wanted to donate $5,000 every fall to be sure we had enough for every child to participate. I convinced him to maintain the scholarship fund at the $5,000 level (instead of a $5,000 donation each year) and so every September he restored the fund to $5,000.
The LOGOS Leadership Team thought it appropriate to name the fund and so we approached Joe about naming it for him. He didn’t like that at all but suggested that instead we name it for his son who had died from cancer not long before then. In those 4 years, many families for a wide variety of reasons, have benefited from Joe’s abundant generosity.
Joe Burdis passed quietly in his sleep last Monday morning at age 92. The world has lost a special individual. Rest in peace, Joe. Rest in peace.