Living in Society

We’re Going Home — Joe Garrity

Fallen Leaves

Tracking down remaining folks from our cohort in the old neighborhood was possible. Joe Garrity died Wednesday night and his grade school classmates at Saint Vincent’s deserved to hear the news. That neighborhood no longer exists in the real world, yet I found most of them.

Joe was born the day before I was on Dec. 27, 1951. He lived with his father after his mother died in an automobile crash. Saint Vincent’s, where since 1895 the Catholic Church had cared for children as an orphanage and school, was not far from where they lived.

I met Joe in high school in 1966. We remained friends until near the end when Parkinson’s Disease had his spouse writing his letters and emails. He would occasionally sign a holiday card. We corresponded by mail, and later, email after we both left Davenport in 1970 for university.

I would sleep over at his house when his father was on the road as a truck driver for The Rock Island Lines. In one of my first cooking experiences, Joe and I would make pizza using a Chef Boyardee boxed pizza kit. They had a big house and we had it all to ourselves. The pizza was good.

I referred Joe to the Turn-Style department store where I worked in high school. He started work and didn’t last long. I remember him wearing the vest that made a uniform for us as we worked the sales floor.

We were both in the National Honor Society. A group of us high achievers formed an inter-mural basketball team. We had a high grade point average yet weren’t very good at basketball. We also recruited the only Hispanic in our class to join our team. He later showed us around the LULAC club in West Davenport.

After graduation, Joe went to Georgetown for his undergraduate studies. A group of us from high school visited him and another fellow classmate at Georgetown over the Thanksgiving weekend during our freshman year. He graduated and returned to Iowa to attend medical school, receiving his MD in 1978. When orthopedics didn’t work out for him after an initial period in the program, he became an emergency room physician. We lived together in University Heights while I finished graduate school and he commuted to Dubuque and other workplaces.

While I lived in Mainz, Germany, Joe and his brother Bill made a brief stop on a European tour. Bill lived in Washington, D.C. and attended many cultural events there. He wanted to see an opera at the Mainz Opera House. I got us tickets to Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca. After a long day at work we had dinner at a Yugoslavian restaurant near the opera house. I made it through most of the story. Then… just as Tosca was dramatically preparing to jump from the parapet to her death… I fell asleep. When we visited a jazz club the following day, Bill fell asleep on his bar stool and fell. We were all very tired.

The last few years have been tough for Joe with recovery from a fall, surgery, and fractures, in addition to Parkinson’s Disease. At the end, the coronavirus invaded the household and Joe didn’t survive.

There are only so many friends of more than 50 years. Joe Garrity will be missed.

UPDATE: I helped Bonnie write the following obituary, which was distributed graveside:

Joseph G. Garrity, 71, of Dubuque, died on March 22, 2023. He was interred at Casper Creek Natural Cemetery near Galena, Ill.

Garrity was born on Dec. 27, 1951, of Eileen Honore Quinn and Harry Patrick Garrity, in Davenport. He grew up there, attending St. Vincent’s Catholic School and Assumption High School. In 1970, he entered Georgetown University, where he earned his undergraduate science degree. Returning to Iowa, he earned his Doctor of Medicine at the University of Iowa in 1978.

Joe Garrity practiced medicine as an emergency room physician in Evansville, Indiana, and in Dubuque, later working at Medical Associates’ Acute Care clinic and Occupational Medicine for 30 years. He was a 36-year resident of Galena. Toward the end of his life, he and Bonnie split their time between Galena and Washington, D.C., eventually moving to Dubuque.

He married Bonnie Lamar on February 14, 1987, in Galena. His life’s passions were art, exploring the world, and trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas. He especially enjoyed his treks to the base camps of Mt. Everest, K-2, Mt. Elbrus in Russia, and to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Joe Garrity is survived by his wife Bonnie Garrity, by his brother Michael Garrity (Diane) in Dubuque, sister Nancy Waack (Jim) in Rutledge, Missouri, and ten nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brothers William and Harry, and nephews Michael and Gregory Waack.

Memorial contributions made be made to:
Casper Creek Natural Cemetery
P. O. Box 195
Elizabeth, Illinois 61028

Joe’s expanded obituary appeared on April 19, 2023 in the Galena Illinois Gazette here.