"I need to write my obituary."
"Oh, that will sound good in my obituary."
"I will add that to my obituary."
- Joe Bateman
Our dad talked about his obituary as long as we can remember. He read the obituary section daily and when he read one he liked, he’d tear it out and add it to his stack - he was known for his piles - to use as a reference. After all the talk, all the compilation, all the reference material, in the end, he never got around to writing it. What follows is our very best attempt to honor his life and legacy.
Joseph Francis Bateman, Jr. was born on June 6, 1939. Entering this world on what would later be known as D-Day may have been at the heart of his love and respect for the military and veterans. He was the second child of five born to Joseph F. Bateman, Sr. and Gertrude (Macdonald). He was the beloved brother to older sister Harriet Fremont-Smith and younger brothers Jack, Bob, and Dick.
Joe was a good student, star athlete, and all-around nice guy at Lawrence High School. In 1957, he graduated from Lawrence HS where he was Senior Class President and played football. He was the guy who stayed out of trouble but looked out for friends who jumped feet first into mischief, never judging, always protecting. After graduating from Lawrence High, Joe spent one year at VMI...it was one of the most formative years of his life. A football injury and family responsibilities brought him home after that year, but he felt a close kinship with his rat brothers, keeping in touch with many of them for over 55 years. After VMI, he attended classes at Northern Essex Community College. He graduated from Salem State in 1966 with a BS Ed and earned a MEd Science at Boston University in 1970. For years, when he took us to Red Sox games, he’d park in the BU parking garage and recount parking there as a grad student while we walked the blocks to Fenway.
In December 1959, he met a 17-year-old Cynthia Glinski for the first time at a Chi Rho Christmas dance. She had read about his academic and athletic achievements in the newspaper - including his appointment to the US Naval Academy - and thought, “Wow!” when he called a few days after their first meeting to ask her to a movie. They dated for several years while they both pursued their educations, and were married on a rainy November 12, 1966 at Holy Trinity Church in Lawrence. Each credits the other with saving them. Over the next 54 years, they built a great life together, raising two children, spending summers on the Cape, and later welcoming two spectacular grandchildren.
A natural-born storyteller - he was 100% Irish, after all - Joe shared stories with everyone. He shared stories of his childhood shenanigans running with the neighbor kids, many of them cousins - like the time they played “fireman” and put out an imaginary fire in the neighbor’s dining room through an open window with a very real garden hose and water. He had stories from an interesting string of jobs, many worked on his way to a career in elementary education - including trash collector, lobster shucker during summers in York, Maine, and jail guard. For 3 years, he worked at Raytheon Andover in Guidance Systems for the Hawk and Sparrow missiles while he worked his way through college. He also worked in the Command Module Simulator at the Draper Lab at MIT.
As a math and science teacher, Joe inspired young minds to dream big. Together, he and his students watched in wonder as astronauts landed on the moon. He told the story of having his students turn their chairs over to lay under their desks, above them a lunar module control panel created on the desk’s underside. A lover of science and space, he taught with curiosity and wonder and awe of God’s creation. The dream-big advice he gave his two children was, "You can be anything you want to be...but if you're a teacher, I'll break your legs!" (said in love). He loved being an educator but knew it was a life with unique challenges and sacrifices. His years as a classroom teacher informed the way he led and supported teachers later in his career as a school administrator.
In 1971, Joe became principal of Proctor School in Topsfield, where he served the students, teachers, parents, and community until 1983. Joe modeled love for learning, compassion and empathy for people, and daily showed kindness to the children of Proctor School. We have been told repeatedly in the last few days by former Proctor students, "Everyone loved Mr. Bateman. He was a great guy, so genuinely caring with a huge heart." He went on to be principal of the Roosevelt School in Melrose. He was awarded the Christa McAuliffe Science Award in 1990 and retired in 1994. Discovering quickly retirement did not suit him yet, Joe took a temporary substitute position teaching 5th grade at Pollard School in Plaistow, NH and temporarily stayed for five years. He was loved by his students and was honored when the yearbook was dedicated to him in his final year of teaching. He retired a second time in 2003, just in time to deal with prostate cancer. He remained cancer-free for the remainder of his life, for which he was grateful to God.
Joe loved the game of baseball. He played it as a kid. He took his children to hundreds of games, particularly Cape Cod League games in the summer. He signed his daughter up for baseball - not softball - when she was in the first grade. He watched with great pride while his son dominated the Cape Ann League from the mound. He dedicated thousands of hours - perhaps tens of thousands of hours - to promoting, supporting, building, and leading, the Cape Cod Baseball League. He served as GM of the Harwich Mariners for three years. In the same way he cared about his students, he cared about Cape players and brought them home for home-cooked meals and a low-key place to hang out. The Cape League provided so many wonderful friendships, moments, and memories for Joe.
A man of deep faith, Joe was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church as an infant and served as an altar boy at St Patrick’s in Lawrence. He was a communicant at St. Rose of Lima in Topsfield and lived his life in a way he hoped would please God and help people. As Joe's earthly life approached its end, Joe’s spirit was at peace in anticipation of heaven.
Joe ran the Topsfield Fair Parade, was chairman of the Memorial Day Committee for 25 years, and co-founded the Topsfield Family 4th. He held volunteer leadership positions with social service organizations at the state, regional, and local levels, including The Office for Children, Tri-Town Council on Youth & Families, Council on Aging, and the Leadership Mentoring Advisory Board of Northern Essex Community College. Joe loved American history and was a Revolutionary War re-enactor with the Methuen Minutemen and the Essex County Regiment of Militia for 15 years. In 2011, he was a member of the Education Outreach Committee for Wreaths Across America, which placed more than 333,000 wreaths at headstones in Arlington National Cemetery and wreaths in more than 550 additional cemeteries throughout America.
Joe's post-retirement career was as a volunteer assistant baseball coach at Northern Essex Community College and assistant baseball coach and recruiting coordinator at Bunker Hill Community College. He coached six Conference and State Championships, one New England Regional Championship, and helped Bunker Hill CC to the 2006 Junior College World Series. Joe tutored nine All-Americans, two All-Academic All-Americans, and thirty-four All-New England Region Team players. Ninety seven percent of his sophomores had the opportunity to transfer to four-year colleges in large part due to Joe's encouragement, support, and guidance. Many of his players were immigrants, first-generation Americans, or the first in their families to attend college. Joe's involvement and advocacy in their lives was the perfect expression of his passions for education, baseball, and people.
Joe loved reading the newspaper. He whistled constantly, songs like "Memories" and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", but could also whistle to imitate a songbird. He loved trees and was a Topsfield proponent of Arbor Day. He loved kids. His favorite meal was a turkey dinner. He did not really enjoy a day at the beach but loved family dinners at sunset at Red River Beach in Harwich. He loved his grandchildren, referring to them as "my Kate" and "my Patrick", responding in wonder and delight to everything they said and did. He was a great friend and enjoyed his coffee group of guys at Day Break Cafe. He had sayings and rules for life, such as "This too shall pass" and "Let it go". He never made it to Ireland. He always thought there would be time. He would urge you not to wait, that the time is now. He loved the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and endeavored to be a peacemaker.
In the final days of his life, when asked how he hoped to be remembered, Joe responded simply, “As a fair leader who loved his family.”
Joe died just before midnight on Good Friday, a fitting exit for a man so devoted to his faith. He was without a doubt welcomed into heaven by God and a big crowd of loved ones.
Joe is survived by his wife, Cynthia; daughter, Rebecca and her husband Kevin Gibbs of Dallas, Texas; son, Joe, of Dallas, Texas; grandchildren, Kate and Patrick, of Dallas, Texas; and brothers Jack (Pam) and Bob (Camille).
We would like to thank Dr. Susan DeLuca and the nurses at Kaplan House for their outstanding and compassionate care; Father Dan Hennessey of St. Rose for his spiritual guidance; and the many family and friends whose prayers, kindness, and support held us up over the last two months.
ARRANGEMENS: Relatives and friends are invited to Joe’s funeral Mass which will be held in St. Rose of Lima Church, Park St., Topsfield on Tuesday April 6th at 11:00 AM. All attendees must register to attend the Mass by clicking the link below or by calling the funeral home (978-774-6600). Visiting hours will be held in O’Donnell – Cremations – Funerals – Celebrations, 167 Maple St., (Rte. 62) Danvers on Monday (Today) April 5th from 4 to 6 PM. All attendees are required to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. In lieu of flowers Expressions of sympathy may be made in Joe's memory to Kaplan Family Hospice House, C/O Care Dimensions, 75 Sylvan St., Suite B102, Danvers, MA 01923. To share a memory or offer a condolence, please visit www.odonnellfuneralservice.com.
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