Joseph Santos, 94, of Morgantown, died June 27, 2017, in hospice care at Sundale Nursing Home after hospitalization following a partial seizure. The eldest child of immigrants from the Azores who made Bristol, Rhode Island their new home, Joe spoke Portuguese and Italian before learning English for elementary school.
The summer after graduating high school, Joe 'Speed" Santos enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served as Radioman on LST 211 deployed in the Mediterranean Sea. After World War II he was assigned to the admiral's flagship in Norfolk, Va., as Radio Watch Supervisor.
His strong desire for college education led him to leave rather than re-enlist in the Navy, utilizing the G.I. Bill to attend the University of Wyoming, where he majored in sociology and psychology.
Nearing completion of study and while home on one of several bus and car trips cross-country, he told his father, Joseph Sr., about an opportunity to work in the government prison system that could eventually lead him to his objective of enabling youth rehabilitation. His Dad told him to 'first get your foot in the door", and Joe became an officer at Alcatraz Island Federal Prison.
Two years of exemplary service and the self-described fortunate recognition by a Bureau of Prisons executive administrator allowed Joe to follow his dream working with youth offenders at the Englewood (Colorado) Federal Correction Institution.
While there he also pursued a Master's degree at Denver University, where he met the love of his life, Sharon Patricia Axe, herself a post-graduate student. They were married several months later in her hometown of Salinas, Ca, on New Year's Day, 1960 on school break.
In Denver, Joe and Sharon began their family, which moved with Joe's Bureau career to California, Oklahoma and West Virginia. At the Kennedy Youth Center in Morgantown, Joe was innovative as Supervisor of Education until federally-mandated retirement was imposed at age 55, to his great regret.
Not finished with his dedication in assisting young people, Joe was instrumental in developing, opening and administering the first Monongalia County Youth Services Center, the latest form of which still exists on Elmer Prince Drive.
Left in capable hands, Joe again retired to remain active in church projects and in supporting his wife's education and career with WVU. He often brought her home at lunchtime to eat and rest, then returned her to some long days, all the while nurturing her personal growth, including taking her to ancestral Ohio to further her genealogy research. He also served from time to time on various review panels for municipal and university studies.
The enormous pleasure of sharing their home and yard filled his retired years, even as he survived colon and prostate treatments. Visiting their sons in Columbus and California, a final trip to visit his father and sisters in Rhode Island and a few bus trips highlighted Joe and Sharon's waning travel events.
Joe loved music. He played harmonica, then accordion, with his father as a child and throughout his life. A natural musician, he had a beautiful voice and loved popular music from the Big Band and Vocal Crooner eras. One of his favorite collections was his record albums and tapes, which he organized and played long after his hearing limited what he could fully appreciate.
A sports enthusiast, especially baseball, Joe played organizational ball in peace-time Navy and before college but declined the offer to play at Wyoming due to school and work time limitations and, his words, "a cold, windy outfield." Weather didn't stop him from teaching baseball to Federal Institution, and later his own and the neighbors' kids.
Joe is survived by his wife of 57 years, Sharon, by his son Timothy Joseph, by his son and daughter-in-law Eric William and Diana, and by his remaining sister Mathilde "Tillie" Daniel, whose family lived in the same town as Joe and Sharon in California, as well as Tillie's three surviving sons and many other nieces, nephews and their offspring.
Memorial gifts in lieu of flowers may be made in his name to the First Presbyterian Church of Morgantown, where a memorial service to Joseph Santos will be held Friday, July 7, 2017 at 1:30 p.m.
Hastings Funeral Home has been entrusted with arrangements and online condolences may be made at hastingsfuneralhome.com.