Remembering Joe Driscoll

    Serendipity (Hugh Walpole confects in his “Three Princes of Serendip”) means the inadvertent finding of good fortune, not originally sought after. That was the case one dank morning on Okinawa, sometime around the end of WWII.

     It was one of those days when nothing was going right. We all have them now and then, but this one was a total loss, and there was still half a day to go. Needing a pause to refresh, I pulled my Jeep into the Yontan Airbase PX for a Coke (then provided in the Mae West six ounce bottles for only a nickel).

     Just as I started my first sip, a heavy bump from behind blew my cool. I wheeled around, poised to swing the frasco into a set of grinning teeth. Fortunately, in a nanosecond, I recognized Joe Driscoll! It couldn’t be, but it was.

     Joe was a B-29 navigator Lieutenant with the 8th Air Force that had just moved into Yontan to be in the planned assault on Japan itself. I was in the Island Real Property Control office for the Army Corps of Engineers. We had both arrived simultaneously at the Yontan PX by pure chance. So excited, we started yakking at each other non-stop.

     Eventually, he took me to lunch at his O-mess. Later, we did mess – and – mess meals weekly until he was sent home. Fortunately, President Truman’s decision to drop “the bomb” ended the war and precluded Operation Olympic. “Little Man” and “Fat Boy” did their jobs so most of us went home vertically. I chose to stay in the occupation.

     Joe Driscoll and I first met in early fall ’41 in lightweight football. I was a player and Joe a manager (then called a compet). Often he’d go out of his way to help me. We came as close as his fraternity duties and my Civil Engineering curriculum would allow.

     Long after the war, I’d visit Ithaca often. His pop (JJD, Sr.), Joe, and I would dine each time at the College Spa on State Street where the old Greek owner would call us “the father, the son, and the unholy ghost.” For a decade, Joe was president of ’44 and I was secretary and was Alumni News Correspondent. We worked closely together and often stayed at each other’s homes.

     That flood of memories overflowed my mind as I sat in Ithaca’s filled Immaculate Conception Church in early July,1990 at Joe’s untimely mass. Everyone there experienced a common loss, but I mostly remembered that morning on Okinawa when Joe Driscoll turned my day around.

M. Dan Morris
, VP, Upstate New York

Another look:  Joe was everywhere!

     Joe Driscoll was our classmate and a mentor for both Kestens in all '44 activities, but above all he was our close friend - a lifelong one. I'd like to add these few words about him for posterity for he meant so much to Dotty and me and to our children.

     Surprisingly, I did not know Joe during my three years on campus. But once we returned home from our WWII occupation duties, the two of us became involved in Cornell alumni affairs at both the Class and University levels and there was Joe.

     In Cornell activities he seemed to be everywhere – meetings, tailgates, panels, all reunions . . he later became President of the Continuous Reunion Club (CRC). Whether we were just walking on campus with him or munching at a tailgate gathering at Palmer Stadium or at other Ivy stadia, everyone always chimed in with a “Hi, Joe!” He seemed to know everyone – and everyone knew him - and he didn’t hesitate to introduce us to everyone as we accompanied him.

     His alumni participation was extraordinary and he literally thrived on it! There wasn’t a Cornell President or college dean during ’47-’90 who didn’t know Joe and who weren’t helped by him in some way. The plaque that hangs in the foyer of the Johnson School (see inset) is a reminder to all of his service and contributions to that School alone. In Philadelphia, he was known as “Mr. Cornell,” a fact so stated in his newspaper obituary.

     Joe was a working member of the alumni group that preceded CACO and held numerous offices in CACO as well. And he was known throughout the “Athletics” structure from the ladies working the many desks to all of the coaches and trainers.

     He drove up from Philly on countless Fridays and the three of us would then sit and cheer together for the Big Red in New Haven, Hanover, Cambridge, and Baker Field. Our children grew up during his many years of overnights with us and “Uncle Joe” helped steer both Dale and Lynn to Cornell with his “You’ll love it!” and his most welcome “Do’s and Don’ts.”

     An unforgettable incident: We didn’t realize Joe was a diabetic until rather late – he kept this secret pretty much to himself over the years . . but for many who attended our 45th Reunion it became quite evident when he passed out in Barton Hall. Someone yelled, “Joe’s Down. Get a doctor!” Not one, but SIX doctors rushed to Joe’s side and the one who cried out, “Quick! Get some orange juice from the bar!” had the right answer.

     Popular and always personable, Joe left his mark at Cornell . . He touched many of us in his lifetime and we hope that this brief website tribute adds to the memories of him held by hundreds of his classmates.

Art Kesten, 49 AB
 
Updated on
03/05
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