In Memory of my Friend Joe, by Dave Nordenson
I’ve thought a lot about our friendship and how it lasted almost 60 years, and one thought
keeps recurring so maybe that is the way to proceed. The theme is what I call The Three Joe’s,
and it began when we started Junior High School in New Britain, Connecticut in 1958. New
Britain labelled itself The Hardware Capital of the World, and home to a large population of
immigrants who worked in the factories that produced products distributed around the world.
Joe’s grandparents came from Sicily and mine from Germany and Sweden. NB was a genuine
melting pot of cultures from all over Europe, and a wonderful place to grow up, unless you
were a surfer. After HS we both moved on to Syracuse University, and Joe’s new-found
freedom quickly got him into academic trouble.
Following his sophomore year, Joe left Syracuse and began his second evolutionary phase,
which I call Joe 2. It was 1965, and the Sixties were in full swing, both the good and the bad.
The Viet Nam War was escalating, and Joe joined the Navy Reserve to avoid the Draft. After a
year doing miscellaneous jobs, he reported to the Navy for active duty, and was sent to a
communications station in Greece. What luck! During his year of active duty, he travelled to
the island of Mykonos and his passion for the island became deeply rooted in his mind. He
returned to the US about 1968, reignited a relationship that turned to marriage and re-enrolled
at Syracuse U. These were good years for Joe and he graduated in the Spring of 1971, intent on
moving to Mykonos indefinitely. In September, he and his wife ‘Burke’ (last name) set up
housekeeping on Mykonos, and I later joined them in the Spring of ’72 and we silk screened
some tee shirts with one of Joe’s designs. They were a little Avant Garde for the Greek
merchants at that time, and the screening stopped after one run, but they would probably sell
After his Greek Island sojourn, Joe returned to Syracuse and immersed himself in the local Art
scene until 1974, when his latent desire to live on the West Coast took control and lead him to
the Bay Area. In November, I paid Joe a visit in Berkeley and started aa 44-year relationship
with Chris, who was sharing a house with Joe and four other refugees from the East Coast who
had ties to SU. Two years later, Chris and I were married and back on the West Coast looking
for a place to call home. That fall we visited Joe & Burke who were living in SF and raising their
infant son, Aaron. Their marriage was complicated for several years before Aaron arrived, and
ended in divorce before he was 2.
Joe stayed on in SF, working in graphic design and eventually meeting Barb, and eventually
moving south to Santa Barbara. It was here that his life took the last major turn, Joe 3, with the
creation of Art-Life Magazine in 1981. In the early years of A-L, Joe published in Santa Barbara,
then shifted his base of operation to Connecticut, where he could be near family and have
access to the art and museum establishment in NYC. After two years in the East, Joe moved the
business back to the West Coast, and back to the Mediterranean climate which reminded him
so much of Greece. Joe dropped the anchor in Ventura in 1988 and settled in to your
community. You all know the rest of the story about Joe’s life there much better than I, so my
narrative stops here.
Almost…for me Joe was a lifelong friend. He worked at Art, and we both worked and shared
Life. We all have influential people in our lives and Joe certainly was one in my life. I met a lot
of people through Joe and some of them have become a large part of who I am. So thanks Joe
for being my friend and I hope we’ll meet again in the After-Life.
“Hey Davey, look at this” you would say repeatedly. And I always would.