Friday, April 04, 2008

She's Good Enough for Joe

4 April 2008

My cousin Joe (Joseph McCurdy) Hunt died on July 7, 1984, of what we now refer to as Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a very aggressive form of lymphatic cancer. At that point, Joe and his wife Ann had been married for well over a decade.

The only problem is, due to living in Canada, I never met Ann.

That is, until now.

Having finally met Ann here in the San Diego area (she is with her father this weekend in Pacific Beach for his 90th birthday celebration), I can attest that she is good enough for Joe.

That’s an important distinction, as Joe was an exceptionally good man.

I remember Joe as my brother Ross’ best friend throughout our childhood years (the two are the same age). They spent hours a day at my grandmother Virginia (Pike) Hunt’s home, where they played at no end of imagination-based games, drew intertwining worms, and diverted my grandmother, who was otherwise preoccupied with caring for our very ill grandfather, the very brilliant W. J. (Walton) Hunt (a Hunt by adoption due to his own mother’s death in childbirth with his younger sister).

Joe will always be well-remembered for his ability to ride a unicycle effortlessly, a skill he later taught to younger children who took an interest in the activity.

Ann and I joked today that Joe seems to have been a man designed by a woman.

Joe was intelligent, athletic, physically confident, popular, and – according to Ann – handsome. He was also monogamous, attentive, considerate, yielding, supportive, devoted and sensitive!

By the way, Joe was popular because he treated everyone deeply respectfully - as equal to him and to each other. He never put anyone down, which was one of his great gifts.

While some unhealthy women are strongly attracted to men who are the “right kind of wrong” – a phenomenon that men never cease to scratch their heads about, most well-adjusted women desire a man who is, well, exactly like Joe.

Ann met Joe when he and his mother (my aunt by marriage to my uncle John Hunt, who was also named Ann Hunt at the time) moved to Prescott, Arizona, her home town. Joe's mother worked at the VA Hospital, the same location where Ann's father worked.

Joe was in his sophomore year of high school, and Ann noticed him immediately. In fact, she devoted that summer to doing everything she could possibly imagine on the front porch of her home, even her ironing.... Why? Because that is where Joe would notice her.

Guess what? It worked.

Joe had never been interested in girls up to that point, but Ann got his attention – much to his mother’s unready surprise. Ann and Joe went together during their high school years, but Joe was a year older, and moved to Texas to study engineering. Meanwhile, Ann lost a year in high school by going to Germany for a year, where she attended school, but attained no credits. The two were nominally separated this year. However, Joe did something that most separated guys don't bother to do. He wrote Ann every day, so, the mail being what it is, Ann sometimes received as many as 2 or 3 letters per day from him.

So much for separation. The two were back together as soon as Ann finished high school and was able to move to Texas to join Joe, who had completed his engineering degree and accepted a position with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Joe was an active, energetic and restless person who wanted a moderately-priced home he could renovate. Ann wanted the certainty of a bathroom that worked. The compromise was that they bought a new home (no renovations required), but on the less expensive Fort Worth side of the city – meaning that Ann often faced lengthy commutes to various positions in Dallas. But Joe got his moderately-priced home, and Ann got a working bathroom.

At this point, Joe already knew that he had Hodgkin’s disease – which in those days was not so curable as it is now. Joe was so used to being physically active that it hadn't occurred to him that he might have the bathroom torn apart, and then not be physically well enough to put it back together. However, this reality had already occurred to Ann – she was making preparations for the inevitable.

While undergoing aggressive radiation treatments and chemotherapy, Joe's consciousness was temporarily so impaired that he became delirious, and did not know what was happening around him for at least a couple of weeks.

Ann took advantage of this situation to do something that Joe would not otherwise have permitted her to do. While Joe was impatient with inactivity, Ann (who retired in 2006) was impatient with working more than 1-3 years at the same job as a federal government employee.

While Joe was temporarily incapacitated, Ann accepted an upgrade to a higher-paying position as a security officer. This required carrying a gun, to which Joe, an ardent pacifist by personal makeup (rather than by ideology), would have strenuously objected.

Guess what? Joe had no say in the matter at the time, and the higher salary helped to pay the costs to which Joe could no longer contribute, due to his physical incapacity. When Joe's condition temporarily improved following therapy, he refused to allow Ann to bring her targets home to show off her increasingly accurate sharpshooter skills.

Joe's illness was psychologically difficult for Ann, who did not want to face life without him. Both he and his oncologist were too conservative to allow her to see a psychologist – until Ann told him she was leaving him if he did not permit it. At this point, Joe responded, “Why didn't you say so earlier?” Ann formed a relationship with a skilled therapist who continues to maintain a friendly relationship with her to the present day. She learned, among other things, that her verbal abilities are two standard deviations higher than her nonverbal abilities - causing her to be comfortable with reading and with writing reports and uncomfortable with operating toasters and renovating bathrooms.

The most predictable downside to Ann's marriage to Joe is perhaps now obvious to you.

Ann dated many men after Joe died. But there was a problem. None of them could measure up. She has remained single to this day, and, based on what I know about men (and, as a psychologist, about what women look for in a man) that is likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

There truly are very few men like Joe. I just don't think Ann really is going to find another one like him.

However, there has been one positive development in Ann's life since Joe's death. Joe, like me, was intensely allergic to cats. Ann loves cats, but couldn't keep them while the two were together. She now lives in a cat-filled house, and gets along well with her companions. Ann has invited Susan and me to visit (Ann has lived in Miami the past several years, and plans to remain perhaps 2 years longer), and assures me that the upstairs of the home is gated and cat-free. Imagine that – a gated community for cats (on the main floor) – only in Miami!

Ann and I enjoyed lunch together today at Las Olas, the archetypal surfer hangout near the beach in Cardiff-by-the Sea. Most of today's pictures were taken at Las Olas (or at Four Seasons Aviara). I have always been curious as to where they found the wave-form tiles in the washroom. Las Olas means "The Waves," in Spanish....


  1. wow, i think that is an amazing story, Give Ann a hug for me, Joe sounded like a great guy i am glad u got the chance to meet her laurence.

  2. Sounds like you had a wonderful time with Ann ...

    It also sounds like Joe set the bar pretty high! Lucky Ann to have had him in her life.

  3. Joe was always the nicest person period. He knew how to get along in every situation. I don't remember him ever being angry or mean or self-centred. Ann commented that he was already an adult when she met him his second year in high school. I'm certainly glad I finally met Ann. We figured she and Joe had come up to visit my mother in 1976, but I was in Newfoundland by that time - much too far away. And people didn't travel so easily back then (it will be like that again, but that's another topic). Ann remembered that my mother had taped poetry up on the doors and walls of the house, which is accurate. When you're with somebody like Joe, you don't have time to feel inferior to him (I'd have to admit that he was a better person than I am!) - but with his being so respectful, anyone who was around him felt good and important too. It just kind of rubbed off.