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photo of Joe Szilvasi

Memories of Joseph J. Szilvasi

All during the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend after I'd heard about the fire at the Emmons Apartments in Huntington, I worried about and tried to locate Joe. My worst fears came true on Tuesday when we learned that Joe was indeed one of the nine people killed in the worst fire in Huntington in 50 years. Read more of Anne's memory ...
-anne weeks


I worked with Joe on the SILC for a few years. He was always very caring and wanted to help anyone new that came into the meetings. I remember when Erick and Russell got the bill passed for Disability History week, Joe came up to me when Erick was at the SILC meeting and he patted Erick on the back and told me he was sooooo proud of him! He was just smiling really big and he was so proud of the boys. He told me, "Mom, you did a good job with this one!" He was a sweet man and will be missed.
-Kelly Simpson


I served on the WV Statewide Independent Living Council with Joe for several years and was so saddened to hear of his passing. Here's how I remember him: I can't help but smile when I think of Joe. He was such a big, imposing-looking guy and he reminded me of Bluto from the Popeye cartoons. He was aware of, and amused by my comparison. Aside from being good-humored, Joe was a kind, gentle, big-hearted man. He was very smart and well spoken. He understood the issues that the Council dealt with and was a strong advocate who stayed in frequent communication with policymakers on a federal, state and local level. He was always the first one to volunteer to contact a legislator or congressperson to speak on behalf of the disability community. He was gentle and intelligent and I recall him first and foremost as a strong advocate. I am proud to have known him.
-Ruth Burgess Thompson


Joe was a true advocate in my book. One who doesn't go with the "buddy system" and goes against the grain to do the right thing. Joe will forever be a hero in my book. I saw him at this past caucus. We talked for a short while, not long enough, now that I know I will never see him again. If I had to do it all over again. I would have said "you know what Joe you are a true advocate, and I am very proud to know you." Joe will be forever in my heart, and I know he is in heaven smiling down on us true advocates and hoping that the road gets a little easier for us.
-Vicki Shaffer


I am much saddened by this news. I do not know if you have ever noticed how hearing people behave around deaf or hearing impaired people, but even at the SILC meetings, most hearing people who do not know American Sign Language, never attempt to communicate with the hearing impaired when an interpreter is not present. Not Joe. When I was serving on the SILC, Joe always approached me on breaks and during lunch and would discuss things like fishing, sports, my service in the military, etc. I really appreciated him because he lived what he believed in, Equality for All People.
-Howard Hurd


Mountain State Centers for Independent Living