I received an email from my friend (and Toastmasters 2nd Year International Director) Tim Swearingen this morning. It was not entirely unexpected, but is no less heartbreaking:
It is with regret that I share the news that Past District 3 [2003-2004] Governor Joe DeRico passed away peacefully on Sunday, January 10. His sisters Donna and Debbie were at his side
December 30 Joe fell victim to a major abdominal aneurysm from which most would have died instantly; fortunately, he made it to the hospital and was immediately taken into surgery. Unfortunately, during the procedure, Joe suffered a heart attack which, along with additional complications, left him in grave condition and on life support.
CT Scans and EEG results from earlier in this past weekend found that Joe’s brain was severely damaged as a result of encephalitis, which in turn, shut down his ability to think, speak, or control motor skills. His organs were so badly damaged that even if he survived, he would only have about 20% of his faculties. As a result of this prognosis and in keeping with Joe’s Living Will, his sisters made the gut wrenching decision to remove the life support machines Sunday evening.
Joe led District 3 to Distinguished District during the 2003-2004 year. He continued to serve that District well as a Past District Governor particularly with selection and recognition of their Communication & Leadership (C&L) Award recipients and actively supporting our annual officer nominations process. The past leaders in District 3 have already received this information, but if you know others that know Joe, please feel empowered to pass this information along.
Donna and Debbie have both expressed comfort in knowing that Joe’s Toastmaster family rallied so well with many wishes, prayers, and positive thoughts. Although Joe will be buried in his home state of Ohio, they will let us know when and where a memorial service will be set for him in Phoenix. We will certainly pass along those details once we have them.
In 2003-04, when Joe served as District 3 Governor, I was a brand new member of the District 50 “trio”. As Lt. Governor Marketing, I was excited and overwhelmed, all at the same time. Joe struck me as a solid leader: calm, cool, collected … when he spoke, I listened. And he had this little gleam in his eye that made me think he was probably a lot of fun to hang with in the hospitality suite.
The members of District 3 are undoubtedly grieving the loss of a solid leader and good man. I send them my heartfelt condolences. But I am convinced that as Joe joins other Toastmasters who have passed on in recent years – like JoAnna McWilliams, Bert Marquardt, David Hostler, and Bill Haas – if there weren’t already Toastmasters meetings in heaven, they’re certainly holding them now.