In your career, you will meet lots of interesting people. If you’re fortunate in life, some of those people will be a blessing to you. That is the case for me with Joe Berlesky.
The first time I met Joe was in 2013 when he answered an advertisement I had placed in the ASHE Career Flash, looking for Life Safety surveyors for HFAP, a hospital accreditation organization. After the initial conversation with him, I knew right away that this guy knew what he was talking about. Life Safety compliance in healthcare organizations is often-times complicated and full of interpretations made by various authorities. Joe seemed to know all the right answers and I hired him as a part-time Life Safety surveyor.
Joe really took to surveying, because the core of surveying is all about helping and teaching other people. Joe destroyed the myth that surveyors have no-heart, and are only interested in enforcing the standards. On the contrary, he spent all his available time teaching and educating the facility managers on how they can improve their regulating process. After all, Joe had been there and done that for decades in the healthcare business.
Then, in the fall of 2015, Joe called me and told me that he needed to take a leave of absence to fight Multiple Myeloma. Multiple Myeloma is a cancer formed by malignant plasma cells. It is considered to be a rare cancer as fewer than 200,000 cases per year are diagnosed.
Sad to say, Joe passed away in May, 2017, but it would be incorrect to say that Joe lost his battle to Multiple Myeloma. Joe never lost that fight… on the contrary, Joe won every day by showing his friends and family how to continue to live, serve others, and be a blessing. Joe would call me or email me and ask me to send him research work. As he put it, he was just ‘sitting around’ doing nothing and he could be researching answers to the frequent questions I get asked.
Joe lived in Florida, and I went down there to visit him in the fall of 2016. At that point, Joe had been ill for about a year, and while he looked tired, his spirit was strong. He said all the right things like he was going to fight this disease and beat it, but I got the sense that beating Multiple Myeloma wasn’t the primary goal for Joe. Living his life in such a way that he could be blessing to others and helping people was Joe’s primary purpose in life. And he succeeded in that up until the day he passed.
Some of you knew Joe, as he was very active in ASHE in New Jersey, and later in Florida. Anyone who knew Joe would agree: He was a huge man, in every sense of the word. What a wonderful blessing he was to me and others. He was not an ordinary Joe.