Long-time Kelowna volunteer was no ordinary Joe

The late Joe Iafrancesco left an indelible mark as a volunteer

It’s been said the measure of a man is not what he gets, but what he gives. If that’s true, the late Giuseppe (Joe) Iafrancesco was a rich man, indeed.

Joe passed away two weeks ago at age 71, following a battle with lung cancer.

But, as was evidenced by the large crowd that turned out to say good-bye to the popular, long-time Kelowna volunteer last weekend, he will not soon be forgotten.

That’s in part because he left an indelible mark on the entire community through an amazing body of volunteer work.

“He did not know the word ‘no’ when someone approached him with a fundraising idea or was asked to help for a good cause,” Joe’s wife Bianca told me in an email earlier this week.

“He liked a challenge and had a gentle persistence to get what he wanted, whether it be from the media, donations or funds from businesses or additional help for fundraising.”

I first met Joe many years ago through my work as a reporter. He was at many of the events I covered and was always helpful, gracious and, in his own quiet way, there to help.

And he always had a smile on his face.

At his memorial service, one of the Bible readings was the well-known passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes about everything having a season.

As was pointed out in the homily that followed, the passage talks about using all the time we have. And Joe used his time well.

“He not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk. He discovered the true meaning of giving and what it gives back to an individual. And he loved to do this,” wrote Bianca.

“He knew that helping each other makes us all better people.”

The list of Joe’s volunteer efforts was long—everything from his beloved Kelowna Canadian Italian Club, to the the Knights of Columbus, Rotary, Folkfest and the the Uptown Rutland Business Association, from Crimestoppers to the Downtown Kelowna Association, the B.C. Summer Games, numerous hockey and golf tournaments, and even three runs for a seat on city council. He also raised money for national projects, such as the Italian wing of the National Museum of Civilization in Ottawa and Pier 21 project in Halifax.

His last donation, however, may have the greatest impact. Along with his wife, Joe donated $200,000, to be split between the Kelowna General Hospital Cancer Care fund and the new JoeAnna’s House project at KGH.

It was a truly magnanimous gesture by a man who immigrated to Canada from Italy as a youngster in 1963, worked hard, and gave back so much to his community.

Joe was a shining example of volunteerism—a man who simply wanted to help wherever he could, who saw the success of the project or effort he was helping as his reward, not the glory of his own participation.

Talking about his last donation, he said: “I hope my gift will inspire others to consider their own impact within our community.”

I hope everyone hears those words takes them to heart.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.

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