Just My Opinion – No Ordinary Joe

The Swanton community just lost one of its most caring, giving and compassionate individuals it has ever known.  Joe Kahl lost his year-long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a rare neurological disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

What Joe gave to his community will never be fully known because he did so much for so many without fanfare, without asking for anything in return and without most of us even realizing it.  He had great respect for the privacy and sensitive circumstances of those in need. 

Joe personified “community service” and touched the lives of thousands of people over the years, many of whom he never met or even knew their names.  Far beyond any financial support, he gave our town and its citizens the most valuable asset any of us can donate, his personal time that stretched over most of his life.

Joe was a teacher for many years in the Swanton School District.  We all understand the impact a dedicated teacher can have on a student’s life, giving guidance and teaching skills they carry with them for the rest of their lives.  He was also a coach, teaching life-lessons that can never be taught in a classroom.  These were gifts he gave to the next several generations.

Joe was a founding member of the Swanton Lions Club, a community service organization that he helped build into one of the most active benevolent organizations in Northwest Ohio.  He, along with his wife of over fifty years, Carolyn, coordinated the Club’s Giving Tree Program for many years, making a happier Christmas for many of Swanton’s less fortunate families.  It was just one of many Lions project he and Carolyn were involved in.

While most of Joe’s benevolent efforts were done behind the scenes, his work with the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Drive at the Swanton Kroger store placed him and what he enjoyed most in full public view and where many people witnessed him working his charitable magic.  Many days he, alone, spent from morning until evening ringing that bell.  In fact, Joe was so successful filling the Red Kettle, the Swanton Kroger location often out raised all other 15 Kroger locations in the Toledo area. 

He had a real talent for being able to raise funds for worthy causes.  It wasn’t that he wouldn’t take no for an answer, he just wouldn’t take it very easily or very often.

Sometimes, Joe’s passion for helping people and his years of teaching would combine to override his ability to tactfully appreciate or accept the ideas of others working for the same cause.  He was definitely someone who wore his heart on his sleeve and would occasionally create some friction by the way he expressed his thoughts.  But Joe’s heart was always in the right place, and everyone knew that, even in those few tense moments.

I met Joe about eight years ago and several days after, he tracked me down and, without saying a word, handed me an application to join the Swanton Lions Club.  Subtlety was not part of his personal make-up.  I joined the group soon after, am still a member today and have always been grateful for his insistence.

With his passing, Joe Kahl leaves behind an unmatched legacy of community service that we can only hope others will seek to follow and emulate.  Your work here is done now, Joe.  Thank you for everything. We’ll take it from here.  Rest in peace, my friend.

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