Memoriam: A Sermon for Joe

Response invited memories for a former SPU staff member


Tali Hairston, director of the John Perkins Center at SPU

By Tali Hairston, Director for the John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development


But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

– 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

I never imagined how hard this would be. Losing Joe this way and this soon is not what any of us imagined. Many of you have “a Joe moment,” and everyone can’t believe he is gone. Joe visited Seattle in July, as was his normal way of vacationing from Los Angeles. He would call his many Seattle friends, including the Hairstons, before seeing his family in Tacoma.

Talking, sharing, and eating

This one Saturday was different. Joe came to the house, and we spent seven hours talking, sharing, and eating. As we said goodbye that night, I walked in the house and told my wife, “Joe didn’t want to leave.” I am thankful for that time.

We talked about Michael Jackson, and SPU colleagues Nikkita Oliver, Donte Quinine, Stephen Newby — and every person Joe could recall. Looking back on that night … I understand. And here is the message Joe left with me that night. Several times Joe said how proud he was of SPU. He said in his own way, “Y’all doin’ it man.” It was like he never left. He shared how proud he was of person after person. And we owe so much of where we are today to our friend Joe Snell. Joe, we are proud of you.


Ultimately I believe Joe wanted to be accepted for who he was nerdiness, paradoxes, and all. Joe had been the executor of his mother’s estate. He cared for mama passionately. This was the main reason for his leaving SPU. After the passing of his mother, Joe was still hurting because of his family. The day of Joe’s last visit to Seattle he had turned over everything to his family concerning his mother’s estate. He was tired. He had put his whole heart into being strong for mama and the family. He even failed to take care of his own needs to do so. Now Joe will only experience acceptance. This is what he wanted more than anything. To be accepted as a walking paradox in a world that forces you to resolve every tension. Joe was comfortable in the grey areas of life as he was in the black and white areas. This was his definition of reconciliation.


"A Sermon for Joe" by Tali Hairston, director for the John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development


"An SPU Student Remembers" by Belinda Aldrett, SPU senior, English major


"Groundbreaking Work" by Susan Okamoto Lane, director of Multi-Ethnic Programs


"A Gentle Prophet" by Debra Sequeira, professor of communication and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences


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