Joseph D. Graf of Hamilton, Ohio – our Joe – passed away peacefully in his sleep on Friday, October 23, 2020. Joe was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on October 5, 1965, the oldest (and yes, favorite) child of Donald and Phyllis Graf, now of Fairfield Township. Joe had Downs Syndrome, and was our big brother – Jill (Mark) Hood of Fairfield Township, OH, Matt (Michele) Graf of Bloomington, IN, Neil (Kate) Graf of Alexandria, VA, and Jeanette (Scott) Dannenfelser of Blue Ash, OH. Joe was also an adored Uncle to Mason, Madeline, Max, Margo, Audrey, Marissa, Joey, Aidan and Mia, and a beloved Nephew, housemate, and friend. As a child and young adult, Joe attended schools in Hamilton, participated in workshops and activity centers and was a resident of Gardner Road group home for much of his life where he was loved fiercely and with whom he found his community and independence.
Joe was the apple of our eye and easy to love – happy go lucky, with a sweet smile and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Although he wasn’t really verbal, Joe was assertive and aware with a huge zest for life. Joe liked to play the good-hearted prankster; he’d giggle and turn off the light while you weren’t paying attention, try to tickle you, or hide your stuff when you weren’t looking. At mealtimes, before his mobility was limited, Joe was the first one to any table – he LOVED to eat. Boy, did he love to eat. We could try to name his favorites, and a few certainly come to mind like mashed potatoes and applesauce, but really eating was just his favorite thing ever. And of course, what he never turned down was DESSERT…CAKE, COOKIE, ICE CREAM! Honestly, he’d gobble up just about anything sweet, and we knew we’d better have it ready as soon as he finished his plate. And guess what – we always did. Maybe the only thing Joe loved more than food – other than our Mom, that is – was music. He loved listening to the radio, to tapes and CDs, and to musicals. His birthday was not complete without a brand new RADIO – which he announced very loudly once he had it unwrapped. He’d throw his other gifts aside once he had that prized possession. Joe love show tunes, holiday songs, High School Musical 2 (TWO he called it), playing on his Jazz N Jam- he sang loudly and always punctuated his enjoyment with happy WHOOPs. He liked it best when we’d sing along with him, and growing up we’d all sing together at the top of our lungs during long car rides. A huge fan of action movies, Joe couldn’t get enough of fast cars and “blow ‘em ups”- he’d whoop and holler with every explosion or car chase. Joe was a football fan too – he liked the excitement and his Buckeyes. And no matter what you were doing together, if you sat next to him, he’d grab your hand and squeeze it super tight – showing his love but also getting you good – his funny way of peppering that goodness with that tiny smidge of “rotten egg.” During his last few years, Joe had some health issues which put him in and out of hospitals and nursing facilities… but in the last year he’d been back at Gardner Road and loving life, spending time with his family and friends. On his last day, he was happy, smiling and teasing his housemates with that twinkle in his eye – still sharing that zest for life. 55 years was definitely not enough, but we were so lucky to have shared this earth with Joe. His impact on us was enormous – he taught all of us invaluable lessons about acceptance, joy, and unconditional love, and his gigantic heart and joyful spirit will be with us forever. Visitation will be held Friday, October 30, 2020 from 10-10:30AM at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 400 Nilles Rd., Fairfield, OH, 45014 with Mass of Christian Burial at 10:30 with Fr. Larry Tharp officiating. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Grace Works Enhanced Living, 11370 Springfield Pike, Cincinnati, OH, 45246 or visit graceworksenhancedliving.org. Online condolences may be left for the family by visiting avancefuneralhome.com
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