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Thoughts with Father Joe

Thoughts with Father Joe Thoughts with Father Joe

I make it a rule to avoid crying during interviews.

As rules go this is generally not a hard one to follow. It takes a rare mind, or some deep-seated personal issue, to get choked up over municipal or school budgets or the opening of a new restaurant in town.

I came close to breaking that rule this week. Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, it was while I was talking to Father Joseph Stefancin while sitting the length of a pew apart at Holy Rosary Catholic Church on Monday afternoon.

I say it was perhaps not so odd, because I remember clearly the wetness in my eyes when I talked with the then Deacon Joe about his wife Audrey who died in 2009. Anyone who had ever worked with her or been touched by her presence was saddened by that loss.

As you will read in the story on page 17 of this week’s paper, Audrey’s death was a major milestone in Father Joe’s journey to entering seminary and becoming a priest. In his calm and quiet voice, Father Joe talked about his wife and the impact her death had on him and their children and how the community came together to support them, allowing them to begin to heal. He talked how that grieving process still continues and the benefi ts of having a good long cry.

We talked of the changes that COVID-19 has brought to how funerals are held and the challenge of saying goodbye. In the course of the conversation, I shared the recent experience of my mother’s death and traveling to New Jersey for her funeral in June. I like to pretend that I am past grieving over my mother’s death and getting angry that cancer robbed her from us.

Perhaps it was the peacefulness of sitting in the cool and quiet church or that Father Joe is just really good at his job, but I realized I was wrong. It is not usually considered very professional when the person you are interviewing has to remind you to breathe, but I think in this case Father Joe understood.

You might say death has been on my mind lately, last week I had talked with Gene Knoll about the passing of Marie Goldbach, the cofounder of Marathon Cheese. I had met Marie Goldbach for the first time at a ceremony marking the beginning of the construction of the new plant in Medford. Rather than a traditional groundbreaking where dignitaries with gold-painted shovels make a show of turning over some dirt, that ceremony involved a priest blessing the worksite and the building that would be built there.

At the time, Knoll was president of the Medford Area Development Foundation and had worked closely with Marie Goldbach and others at Marathon Cheese to get the plant built here. “What a wonderful person to work with,” he remembered.

He said her outlook on running the business was unique. “She was focused on doing what was right for the community, doing what was right for their employees and what was right for their customers,” Knoll said, noting the order of looking out for others first.

Knoll noted that in the years since the Marathon Cheese plant was built it has been a stabilizing influence in the workforce because regardless of what the economy is doing, people will always need to eat.

With so many national business headlines about executives pillaging and destroying companies seeking quick profits, it is easy to forget there are many other business owners like Marie Goldbach, whose satisfaction is in planting the seeds to grow strong long after they are gone.

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.