Joe Reichert was born in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, in 1935.
He and his family moved to Keremeos in 1945 where they purchased an orchard. Joe studied mechanics, helped on the farm and eventually found work at Tulameen Motors in Princeton.
Two years later, he found himself becoming restless. Even back in those days, there were some good opportunities to make decent money working the oil rigs; Joe decided to move on to greener pastures, and headed north to Fort St. John and Alberta, where he found profitable, steady employment for several years.
In 1959,personal tragedy struck when Joe was working a rig with several other men.
Working his third shift on the rig with a couple of regular rig workers absent, Joe was helping to balance a sling load of pipe when the sling, which hadn’t been properly set, slipped. The pipes tilted, and Joe was catapulted into the air.
Had he not been wearing a hard hat, his life quite probably would have ended there. As a result of the accident, however, he became a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.
There is a common saying in popular use nowadays that says “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Joe’s life from this point on is perhaps an excellent example of that quote.
Joe spent the following year in the Royal Alexandria Hospital in Edmonton, followed by another year at the University Hospital. Recovering in the extended care unit, Joe found himself getting bored. He became involved in volunteer work, becoming president of the fledgling paralympic association.
“He was one of the first on board,” remembers his widow, Rejeanne (Reggie), “he helped to initiate the wheelchair athletes movement and the Paraplegic Sports Association in Edmonton.”
Joe became a paralympic athlete in his own right, taking on the sports of riflery, archery, jacvelin, shot put and table tennis.
“He represented Canada at the Pan Am Wheelchair Games ” recalled Reggie, “he won two gold medals for archery.” Joe also participated in the American Wheelchair Games.
A cabinet in the dining room of Joe and Reggie’s home displays the many pieces of hardware won by him over the years. Alongside is a trophy cup presented to him by the City of Edmonton for winning the Canadian Paralympic Sport Championship in 1969, and 1972 through 1975.
“Those activities gave him a reason to carry on,” said Reggie, “between the paralympic games and his volunteer work, he found purpose.”
Joe’s involvement in the paralympic games continued until 1979, when he competed in his last organized event before retiring.
Joe met Reggie in 1977 in Edmonton, where she had been working in the extended care facility that Joe resided in.
“Joe was participating in wheelchair athletics at the time,” Reggie said, “he was a good friends with another wheelchair athlete from Whitehorse who I also knew.” Reggie got to know Joe as a result of this coincidential friendship, and in 1981 the couple moved to Keremeos where they married shortly afterward.
The Reichert family farm was sold off, with the siblings each getting a share. Joe invested his portion in property on Eleventh Avenue, keeping two lots for his own use.
It wasn’t long before he became restless once again. Joining the Elks in the spring of 1982, he has been involved in the Keremeos Elks Rodeo every year since then.
In the early years, he held the position of raffle chair.
“The raffle was a big event at the time,” said Reggie. “He eventually became rodeo secretary, then secretary – treasurer.
“He and former rodeo chair David Barker used to work very well together,” she said.
Joe also volunteered with the Lower Similkameen Health Society and the church.
“He loved the Elks. He was involved because the Elks did a lot for the community. Joe believed strongly in supporting the community.The village and its people meant so much to him.”
When he wasn’t doing volunteer work, Joe found ways to keep busy at home. The introduction of the personal computer opened a number of new doors for Joe, who took an H and R Block income tax course during one rodeo off -season.
“He did tax returns for people in the village for years,” Reggie said, “it was amazing to see how many files he eventually created, typing every entry with one finger.”
“He did everything he could on his own,” she said, “he even had a daily exercise regimen that he did faithfully because he wanted to stay healthy.”
In recent years, Joe had lots of time for his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
“He showed such great kindness towards them,” Reggie recalled, “he even did babysitting duty.”
“I don’t take credit for what he did in his life… we were a good couple together, but he did everything he could possibly do for himself.”
Joe developed pneumonia last winter. He fought it off, but complications developed from it, and three weeks ago, he underwent several hospital procedures to drain fluid from his lungs. The treatments were unsuccessful, however, and on May 2, Joe passed away.
“He filled all the key roles in the Elks over the years,” said Keremeos Elks Vice President Mac Watson.
He wore two hats for years (treasurer-secretary) and he was responsible for a lot of work done.
“He’s going to be sorely, sorely, sorely missed .
“He really held the club together with his ideas and careful management of expenditures.”
Joe is survived by wife Reggie, three stepchildren and 12 grandchildren, three great grandchildren.