One Connecticut family has honored their late patriarch as the true prankster he was in a hilariously honest obituary that has been widely circulated on social media and left many commenters wishing they had known the “wonderful” man, too.
In the emotional and entertaining piece, the author shared that her father was born January 1937 in New Haven as the Great Depression rocked the nation, a day and age that “shaped Joe’s formative years and resulted in a lifetime of frugality, hoarding and cheap mischief, often at the expense of others.”
Joe embraced his all-important role as the eldest of five children and proudly “tortured his siblings through a childhood of obnoxious pranks, with his brother, Bob, generally serving as his wingman.”
From pranking others with laxative-laced cakes and even going so far as to name his first dog “Fart,” the funny man worked as a library assistant at Yale Law School Library before making a grand plan with his lifelong friends Ronny Kaiser and Johnny Olson to join the Navy and explore the world together.
“Their plot was thwarted and the three were split up when Joe pulled the 'long straw’ and was assigned to a coveted base in Bermuda where he joined the ‘Seabees’ construction battalion,” the author wrote, detailing that her father’s military service inspired a lifelong commitment to his country and community. Later in life, Joe served as a town constable, volunteer fireman, crosswalk guard, public works snow plow official, ambulance association member and proud member of the Antique Veterans of Meriden Honor Guard.
A “self-taught” chemist, Joe worked at Cheeseborough-Ponds manufacturing where he met his future wife, Irene, who was reportedly “hoodwinked into thinking he was a charming individual with decorum.”
“Boy, was she ever wrong,” Monique joked. “To this day we do not understand how he convinced our mother, an exceedingly proper woman and a pillar in her church, to sew and create the colorful costumes and props which he used for his antics.”
The couple welcomed three daughters, Michelle, Lisette and Monique, who agreed that growing up with their lively father meant there was never a dull moment in their household.
The dedicated father would let the girls “do” his hair and makeup, lovingly crafted their doll furniture and a play kitchen, and often made them forts in the backyard.
When the girls grew up and began dating, their protective dad would typically greet their suitors “by first running their license plates and checking for bald tires.”
“If their vehicle passed inspection, they were invited into the house, where shotguns, harpoons and sheep ‘nutters’ were left clearly on display,” the author said.
As for his one-of-a-kind personality, Joe never met a dog he didn’t like, frequently treasure-hunted at the Essex Dump and was famed as a “consummate napper” who was blessed with the unique ability to fall asleep at any “road, restaurant or friend’s house in Essex.”
Joe was predeceased by his wife Irene, brother Bobby and pet fish Jack. According to Monique, the family was surprised to find the aquatic creature in the freezer last week.
“Left to squabble over his vast fortune, real estate holdings and ‘treasures,’” the Connecticut man leaves behind his three daughters, their partners, and eight grandchildren, who he hoped that at he had taught “at least one of them” to cuss properly.
He is also survived by his siblings Pat, Richard and Kathy, two sisters-in-law and 14 nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family jokingly asked for “donations to offset the expense of publishing an exceedingly long obituary” which would have made Joe upset. Or, the family requested, have a cup of coffee with a friend and salute the Joe’s life, or even play a “harmless prank on some unsuspecting sap” in his honor.
More seriously, the Heller family is gathering donations to the Seabee Memorial Scholarship Association in their beloved prankster’s honor.
As for funeral arrangements, a viewing will be held on Thursday night, complete with a “light dinner” as Joe felt that “no get-together was complete without food.”
“Feel free to be as late as you’d like as Joe was never on time for anything because of the aforementioned napping habits,” Monique joked, advising attendees to “dress comfortably” as “Joe despised formality and stuffiness and would really be ticked off if you showed up in a suit.”
More specifically, the family recommends wearing “the most inappropriate T-Shirt that you are comfortable being seen in public with” as the beloved father and grandfather often did.
“Joe faced his death and his mortality, as he did with his life, face on, often telling us that when he dropped dead to dig a hole in the back yard and just roll him in,” the author continued. “Much to his disappointment, he will be properly interred with full military honors (and maybe Jack) next to his wife on Friday.”
In the days since Joe passed, Monique told WFSB that news of the humorous obit has spread all over the country and world, and the family has been flooded with condolences and well-wishes from dozens of people they have never met. Many agreed that they had wished they had known Joe or been part of his family.
“I was writing it kind of as a memoir of my father. His local friends could relate and say, ‘oh, that was a Joe story,’” Joe’s proud daughter said of the now-viral piece.
“What an awesome tribute for a much-loved man. I hope one of his kids or grandchildren got his prankster gene to carry on Joe’s legacy,” one commenter wrote on the obituary.
“Your Dad is laughing his a-- off right now. No better tribute to a life well-lived and loved,” another agreed.
“This is how to live your life. The internet is a wonderful thing and this was, hands-down, the best tribute to a life that I've ever read,” another said. “To the family and friends - so very sorry for your loss. He sounds like a wonderful guy and someone I would've been great friends with.”
“Rest in peace prankster. Don’t lock the gates,” another said.