In Memory of Joe Schaefer

December 7, 2021 6:41 pm

By Janet Muncy, integrated media manager

The Virginia Department of Forestry mourns the loss of a member of the VDOF family, Joseph (Joe) W. Schaefer, assets and infrastructure manager, who passed away October 23, 2021.

A retired U.S. Air Force veteran of 21 years, Joe had a vast military background that took him around the world before he settled here in Virginia and began his career with VDOF in February 1999 as a member of the information technology and communications team. He led the agency through many years of rapidly changing times in the telecommunications and information systems world, later adding facility management to his duties. “Joe defined the term, ‘other duties as assigned’ in that he continually picked up other duties and assignments throughout his VDOF career that kept him always balancing multiple projects simultaneously. His previous experience in the military had prepared him well for his VDOF position, said John Colligan, chief of administration.

Managing the VDOF radio system was a key role for Joe and he also served on the board for the national organization Forestry Conservation Communications Association, advocating for the interests of forestry and conservation agencies in the public safety communications world.

Joe touched so many lives, both personally and professionally. There are many stories to tell but the common theme among them is that Joe was always there when needed. His tireless dedication to his family, friends, coworkers, and community will not be forgotten.

He and is his wife, MaryAnn, were avid bikers as anyone would know by a visit to his office, and he loved hunting, sharing his bounty with friends and coworkers. He always made time for the fun as well as the important – serving as a volunteer EMT for Louisa County for many years and his charitable service to his church and the Knights of Columbus. “While Joe was involved in many charitable acts as a member of the Knights, his overriding passion was the building of a Health Clinic in Kitakyusa, Uganda. Joe was one of the leaders, who not only built the clinic but made sure it had a safe water source and full-time electricity, both rare in rural Uganda. Joe made several trips to Uganda and loved it and its people. His legacy will live on for generations to come through the life-giving work of the clinic.”

Joe touched so many lives and will be missed by all at VDOF. We’ll miss his humor and stories. Please keep Joe’s family and friends in your thoughts as they adjust to the void left in their lives. In honor of Joe, always remember what’s important in life, work hard and play hard, and adopt a giving spirit.

Memories of Joe

A Personal Tribute…

One of the things I remember most about Joe is his sense of teamwork. On a particularly disastrous Monday morning, I arrived at work to find him operating a large wet/dry vac. He informed me that the water fountain on the second floor broke over the weekend and had spewed water down the walls, which had found its way to the first floor creating a pool of soggy carpet, ceiling tiles, and ruined wallpaper.  What impressed me most was how he was working on the cleanup alongside the rest of the team. As we worked on the cleanup, we began to realize the extent of the damage and ended up having to turn the job over to the professionals. It took several months to coordinate all the repairs and re-work the design to blend the new materials with the existing wallcovering, etc. He was happy to see pictures of the completed work.

I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to work with Joe. He made work fun and told the best stories. We both loved cooking shows and German food, and rare was the day we didn’t discuss cooking or recipes in some form or fashion.  Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Joe always made me feel respected, valued, and appreciated. He was a great boss and a great friend.

Lora Newlin, communications and facilities coordinator

A Personal Tribute…

Joe would go to great lengths to get the job done, show his appreciation for hard work, and support those around him. At the time, quite a long time ago now, I worked for Joe when an opportunity arose for me to follow a new position path. Joe was clear about how he hated to see me reassigned but he’d never get in the way of me moving forward and supported me all the way. Soon after moving away from the communications team, Joe would find himself hosting the FCCA conference in Virginia and asked for my event planning expertise. Of course, I’d jumped to help Joe, as he’d always been there for me. We hosted an amazing event whereby he thanked me in front of the entire crowd with a case of Canadian pea soup. I know, it sounds totally ridiculous, but the truth is, this specific Canadian pea soup reminded me of my mother and bringing it back from Canada every year when we visited relatives when I was growing up (this was before web stores were the standard). Joe arranged for a Canadian radio company representative that was coming to our conference to send a case of this infamous Canadian pea soup to surprise me. He always heard everything you said and didn’t forget, and no effort was too much to do something for another – whether it was to get a laugh out of you or just do something nice for you. I couldn’t say it better – he always made me feel respected, valued, and appreciated.

Having experienced working for and with Joe, and having a friendship with him, I can truly say there’s none like him and I was so blessed to know him and call him a friend. He had the ability to always put a smile on your face and was committed to the giving spirit. He truly was one that I could always depend on.

Janet Muncy, integrated media manager


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