I’m saddened this morning by the loss of my Uncle Joe, my Dad’s younger brother, and my last living uncle. Next to my Dad, he was one of the men I admired most in life and I am proud to have been named after him. He attended the same high school I did – St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago – and had a long and fruitful association with the Jesuits. He was always very supportive of me in my ministerial work and encouraged my commitment to what he referred to as the “noble profession” of teaching.
Uncle Joe was a pharmacist like my Dad and, after I worked for my Dad at Paprocki Pharmacy for many years, I then had the privilege of working for my Uncle at his pharmacy to supplement my income as a Catholic school teacher. I worked at his store on weekends and during the summer and learned so many valuable life lessons from him. In contrast to my Dad who was a quiet, reserved man, Uncle Joe was outgoing and boisterous with an incredible sense of humor. He caricatured himself as a curmudgeon when nothing was further from the truth. (example- Me: “Uncle Joe, I’m so glad you could make it to the family picnic!” Uncle Joe: “I didn’t want to come but my kids made me!”)
I was always proud to be his namesake however, he was always quick to remind me that, after taking one look at me when I was born, he legally changed his last name from Paprocki to Parks!
Perhaps the most unique experience I had working with both my Dad and my Uncle was the opportunity to stand next to them behind the prescription counter at their respective stores and listen to them wax eloquently about one another. They had a true “mutual admiration society” and I was privileged to witness such fraternal love. Now, the 2 brothers are re-united in heaven where I have no doubt they are donning their White Sox caps and organizing a game of softball like they did when they were kids.
Rest in peace, Uncle Joe!
P.S. It is sadly ironic that Uncle Joe died as a result of a fall at home. Here is a pic of him at our family picnic just 2 summers ago when, at the tender young age of 82, he decided to hop on top of a picnic table just to scare the #@&% out of all of us! When he was a kid, he used to jump out of the 2nd floor window to the sidewalk below and he used to jump from rooftop to rooftop from our home on Sacramento all the way to the church on Whipple, a block away!