|Birth: ||May 6, 1910|
|Death: ||Jan. 20, 2000|
Joe Wilfinger was a building contractor. I wish I could speak of his broader life and family, but I don't know it, and I never could find an obituary for him. I know only of how he touched my family's life.
Joe was the gent my father hired to build an addition on our home, a relatively modest Cape Cod style house. Joe was a big man, tall and broad, with twinkly eyes, and very pleasant.
My dad and Joe worked on the plans together. The decisions were made, and before our very eyes, carried out over one summer.
The old one-car garage would become a family room. The driveway would be shortened and give the ground for a new eating area, bathroom and foyer. A new two car garage would go up, and the whole works wrapped around an area which would become a patio sheltered on three sides.
To accomplish this, the huge old maple outside my bedroom window would have to come down. This tree had sheltered me when I played for years. Annually it had yielded the wonderful green "sticky noses" we kids had peeled open and stuck on our own noses. My family had sat under its branches on many a summer night while the cicadas and crickets sang, often with candles and company. No, not our tree! What about the birds and squirrels who called it home? Wouldn't it hurt the tree? For a whole day, I hollered and cried with my fingers in my ears, to drown out the menacing buzz of the saws, and the hideous cracks as branches came down. My friend Nan thoughtfully took me out on a bike ride away from the devastation, and when we came home the yard was a barren mess. The stump stood alone as a sad wounded reminder of nature's glory that had once been there.
Somehow I got over this, and Joe's work was the biggest reason. Every morning he and his crew would arrive and start working. Day by day, to our family's amazement, this vision of my dad's would take more form. Dad would explain to me how it was going to be but it didn't really take shape in my mind until the day we could go inside and walk around the frame on the workers' floor. Here is where we'll eat, and here's a nice big window we can look out. One day, before it was complete, we did just that. My child-size picnic table was brought in, and my cousins and I had lunch in the new addition.
Joe was really cool. He got on great with my parents, and was patient with my questions too. He showed me tools I asked about, and explained step by step what they were going to do that day. I loved watching him and his men climb all over the structure that was springing up.
As a kid, I wasn't tuned into adult issues, but in retrospect I recognize this was a huge deal for my parents. Financially, it was probably the biggest investment they'd made to date. They were also going out on a limb in having an idea and seeing it through. Mostly though, it had to have been a trial for my dad. My memory of my dad is from when he worked in management at a textile mill, but he had been raised in the family business which was cast stone construction. He had a mind that could conceive ideas and imagine how they might become reality. He understood building plans on paper, and had worked with contractors in business. Now he worked with one to make his own home better. It must have meant a lot to him to come home from work every day and see what Joe and his crew had done, to walk around and through it, see if it had been done well, and know what was coming next. He must have found it both nerve wracking and exciting at the same time.
Joe and his men did a beautiful job. The addition has stood for many years now with nary a problem - no cracks, no leakage, no issues at all. The lone minor glitch was not Joe's province. One electric switch plate had the positions reversed for two outlets, and we lived with it for years until we needed an electrician for something else and had him reverse it while there. The exterior was nice, the windows were tight, and the boards still don't squeak.
The new family room hosted many a sleepover for my friends and me. Mom loved all the new closet space for storing groceries and other stuff, the garage was spacious with an attic above, and we all appreciated not having to go upstairs every time nature called. The patio became party central in summer for ice-cream making neighborhood get-togethers, and became also my mom's private place for sunbathing.
My dad's ideas for making our home better were good and practical, suiting our family well, and we have Joe Wilfinger to thank for making those plans a reality.
Created by: sr/ks
Record added: Oct 06, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 42763759