Josef “Joe” Baecker and his wife Maria came to the American Southwest from Frankfurt Germany in 1992 to live their German American Dream. At his Celebration of Life service, a parade of family and friends stood up to speak about Joe as a military hero, a father, a fisherman, and a friend to many.
His daughter Regina suggested attendees take a good look at the medal on the table that held items important in Joe’s life. This red cross was the highest honor given to Germany’s military personnel. It was awarded to him as a Navy seaman, for a daring rescue he performed during a terrible North Sea storm. He saved six people from death, including a woman and her baby. As a result of his brave actions, he almost died himself and spent three months recuperating in a hospital.
She also suggested taking a good look at the boxing gloves. Joe was a boxer for the German Navy. His nose had been broken many times, and most folks did not know he had a glass nose. He was also a medic, and followed a career path to EMT, nurse, and eventually hospital administrator. He gave this up when he and Maria moved to Albuquerque almost 20 years ago.
Regina said when Joe married her mother, he never called her three girls step-daughters, they were simply his daughters. And he never called her husband a son-in-law, he was always a son-in-love. He loved to buy noisy toys for the grandchildren.
And he would get dressed up to go shopping, even though she would tell him that he didn’t have to do that in America. Although he could be irritating, too. Her mom would say, “Ach, Joe, she knows what she’s talking about.”
“He gave my mom a dream, and he made it come true,” said Regina. “They did everything together. They were one piece, true soul mates.”
Several fishing buddies shared stories of times with Joe on the Jemez River. Comments included “Every time you were with him he’d make you feel like you were his best friend.” “He could come on like a tornado, but he couldn’t ever cuss right in English.” “Even if you didn’t know Joe well, he’d make you feel welcome and that you’d known him all your life.”
“Schmetterling” is what Joe called jeweler Ron Baca. The term means “butterfly” and Ron didn’t know that Joe had been a boxer. He said maybe there’s a connection – ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.’ Joe had jewelry he was proud of – a medallion and a watch and other pieces that he would ask Ron to polish whenever he came into the shop.
The comments were followed by a video tribute with images from throughout Joe’s life set to a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria. Attendees were invited to a reception at Joe and Maria’s home after the service.
May Joe Baecker catch all the fish he desires in heaven.