Live so that you may live.  The phrase suggests that one should live life to the fullest and without fear of the possible consequences. My teacher, mentor and friend, Joseph Gilpin helped to instill this into my soul.  Joe was an amazing soul, a Bostonian priest who ended up teaching Latin in Bradenton, FL.  Joe passed away unexpectedly in September 2021.  It has taken me a while to process what exactly Joe meant to me.  This is my tribute to my teacher, mentor, and friend. 

Joe Gilpin circa ~1983

I’m not sure how or why I signed up for freshman Latin at Bayshore High School in the Fall of 1980, but nonetheless, I ended up in Joe’s class.  I think I decided that learning the root of all romance languages would be a good base for any other language and for college. The first thing I learned was that Joe was not like any of the other teachers I had ever met. Joe cared first about us.  Each of his students mattered a lot more than the topic he was teaching.  We spent much of our time together in class discussing life, family, politics, and philosophy.  

Smoke in toga at a Latin Club event

Yes, we did learn Latin, and I would end up spending four years in his class, in leadership in the FL Junior Classical League, doing well on the SAT and learning a tremendous amount about the Roman Empire and the root of our language.  It most certainly contributed to me being the only student at Bayshore to be admitted to and attend an Ivy League University (Cornell). That said, I learned a lot about life, philosophy and perspective that simply could not be taught in a book.  I also was a less than stellar student of Kathy Gilpins for Freshman English.  Sorry Kathy (I mean it!)

Joe challenged us to think.  Something I fear has mistakenly been lost in much of our education system today. He would never accept your first answer.  Instead, he challenged his students to think and explain. For this, I put Joe into 5+ most influential people in my life. 

He was a champion and leader in the teaching of the Classics.  He and his wife Kathy and later his son Christopher, would trek all over the country to attend the National Junior Classics League events https://www.njcl.org/Teachers/Latin-Honor-Society  .   I was fortunate to attend the Florida JCL and win an award for the clay model of a Roman leader (LOL).  

The Latin Club (Kathy is far right next to Smoke and Joe is far left)

Student Council leadership….(before)
Story on the incident in Tampa Tribune

Not everything was roses in our relationship.  Joe was the faculty sponsor for the Student Counsel, and we attended the Palm Beach Gardens, FL meeting for all the High School Student counsels together.   Youthful indiscretion led a couple of us “Leaders” to bring some bottles of liquor to the convention.  We actually successfully “partied” during the event without incident, but the next morning Joe stopped by our room, and we had an empty bottle of Jack Daniels sitting by the TV.  He saw it, looked at me and teared up.  He had no choice but to report our indiscretion. This led to an embarrassing and public suspension of the guilty officers (not all) of the Bayshore HS student counsel. One of the other students had a family with money and they ended up suing the school because it wrecked his 4.0 grade point average.  I don’t know what ever happened with that, but I do know I had to explain my suspension on all my college applications.  Despite the situation that we experienced together; Joe wrote me recommendations to all my college choices. This included Cornell, MIT, Princeton, USC among others.    I ended up getting a full ride to USC but chose Cornell.  Princeton didn’t get it.  

A not very happy Joe on the way back from our student council convention!

The Gilpins at our Wedding

I always stayed in touch with Joe, albeit sporadically.  When I remarried I invited Joe and Kathy.  They unexpectedly accepted and joined us for our blessed event in the desert of Las Vegas in the Spring of 2008 along with about 100 of our family and friends. It was an amazing experience for us to reconnect and to share that magical time together.  On the funny side of things, my wife Anitra and I had a limo and everyone else was sent out to the Red Rocks Park on buses. As we were about to leave Vegas in our Limo, Joe and Kathy ended up missing the buses.  Of course, we had them join us for Veuve Clicquot in our wedding limo. Needless to say, certain things were not possible with Joe and Kathy in our limo (LOL) but it was as special moment together.  

We were blessed to have them join our family at this magical event.  I only wish we had another time to hang and reminisce.  I learned of Joe’s untimely passing through his son Christopher on Facebook back in September.  I knew I wanted to write a tribute to him and his influence on me and so many others, but it took me a while to put my thoughts together and express my gratitude.

Joe and Smoke at Red Rock State Park in Nevada

The Roman poet Horace wrote, “Seize the day; put no trust in the morrow.” or as you might recognize Carpe diem, in Latin form. In the spirit of what Joe imparted on me and so many others, vive ut vivas; Live so that you may live.  I don’t think any of us living through the past couple of years during the Pandemic think about life quite like we did before.  Never has it been more important to live your life fully.  I try to do so each and every day and wish that upon each and every one of you.

Joe’s official obituary can be found here.

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