Riding the bus from the airport to pick up our rental car this afternoon, I saw a couple with three young kids, all talking excitedly. The kids were looking forward to seeing their relatives for Thanksgiving. Watching them, I found myself thinking of Joe Marotta.
Readers will remember the tragic story of Joe, who died suddenly last summer while swimming in the ocean at a Virginia beach. Now, the college where Joe worked just published this remembrance:
Hardly anything compared to the first time Joe and Katie Marotta took their children to Disney World. The oldest, Christopher, who was 6 at the time, sat beside his dad during the shuttle to the hotel. As the bus entered the gates, Joe found himself in tears as he watched his son plaster his nose against the window.
In his personal blog about religious experiences, Joe later compared that feeling of joy with what he imagined God must feel.
“Is this the kind of joy that He feels when we are able to experience His Kingdom?” he wrote. “I look forward to the day when, nose pressed up on the glass, I will ride into the Heavenly Kingdom and feel the embrace of God.”
That day came too soon. Joe, a recently ordained Catholic deacon and father of five who served as Randolph’s controller, drowned while vacationing at the beach this summer. He was 39. Though he had only been on campus 18 months, Joe’s death left a large void.
“No matter where you put him—whether it be at Randolph, or at his church, or anywhere else—if he took something on, it was all-encompassing,” said Wendy Deitrick, accounts receivable supervisor. “He was passionate about making things work.”
In an effort to recognize Joe’s impact on campus and help the family, Randolph has offered full scholarships for each of his children: Christopher (12), triplets Caroline, Jack, Michael (10), and William (1).
Joe felt at home at Randolph. “Joe liked his job, but he found the most joy from the people and building relationships,” his wife, Katie, said. “He loved Randolph College. I’m not sure he would have ever left.”
Faith and family were central to Joe’s life. He participated in the ministry at Holy Cross Catholic Church for many years. In October 2012, he was ordained a Catholic deacon.
At Randolph, Joe delivered sermons at a campus worship service and at the 2013 Baccalaureate. He also made heartfelt contributions to a faculty and staff Bible study.
“It was pretty awesome to be around him and get his take on things, and I always left feeling encouraged,” said Johnathan Willis, Randolph’s volleyball coach and leader of the Bible study group. “He always wanted to help people grow and mature.”
Happy Thanksgiving, Joe.