I first met Josie in the Spring/Summer of 1994 in the parking lot of the Solon Dunkin' Donuts. My friends Kevin and Ben had been talking about these cool people they had recently met while hanging out there, and one day I traveled with them from our hometown of Aurora to see what all the fuss was about. These weirdos from the surrounding areas of Solon and Pepper Pike were just about the coolest people I'd ever met, and we'd congregate with them on most weekends from there on out. We had a shortage of weirdos in my town, and so I felt like maybe I finally found somewhere that I really fit in. One of the first people I met was this friendly, bubbly, cute goth girl named Josie. She and her then boyfriend Charlie were an integral part of my initial memories there. I remember little things, like them being excited for Charlie to get his driver's license, or when he bought her the exact same Nine Inch Nails shirt that I had (which we both wore on the same night once, something so simple that we'd continue to talk about over the years), as well as the time I overheard her telling a friend that she was thinking of ending it with him. I have so many memories like these from that first era of hanging out with that group. There was always a larger rotating group, but also a handful a regulars that were staples, and Josie and Charlie were two of those regulars.
Josie (with the guy from Jackyl, apparently)
After the two of them broke up, I didn't see Josie hanging around at Dunkin' quite as much. I remember I saw her one night with my friend Keith at the long defunct Brady's Cafe in Kent in late '94, and sporadically afterwards. (I refer to 1994-April 1, 1995 as my "first era" of hanging out at Dunkin' Donuts, because then came my car accident which sidelined me for quite a while). I don't recall seeing Josie a whole lot during my "second era," which I consider to be late-1995 to until I moved to Hawaii in July 1997.
Myself, Kevin, and Josie doing a Dunkin' reunion, NYC 2019
When I moved back to Ohio in 2001 with Mary Alice, Josie and I reconnected while we were both living in Columbus. We became close friends, and would see each other often, especially following the death of our friend Ben Schechter in 2002, who was also one of the first people I met hanging out at Dunkin' Donuts. We got to really know each other as adults, and would often rejoice in the discussion of the old days. When Josie and her then boyfriend moved to NYC in 2008 and Mary Alice and I moved to DC in 2011, we somehow grew even closer. We'd travel there often to stay with her and her cats at her Brooklyn apartment, many times while also performing in the city.
Mary Alice and Josie became great friends over the years. That's one of the coolest things imaginable, that my childhood friend and wife could end up so close. They'd hold conversations online or in person that had nothing to do with me, and would quite often confide in each other, and that just made me really happy.
Josie was diagnosed with stage three Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March 2013. Everyone including her was generally optimistic, it seemed beatable. In early 2016, she was diagnosed with an unrelated pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, and it was eventually determined that this diagnosis was terminal. She kept a blog about her experiences starting in 2013, you can read about her brave six-and-a half year fight here.
I always told Josie that she was "the bravest person I've ever known," but I was never sure how she felt hearing that. She wasn't into getting mushy with people, or even prolonged hugging, but I couldn't help myself. I was in awe of her, especially while I was recovering from a catastrophic depressive episode I had which eventually led to my PTSD-diagnosis. Our talks during this time were invaluable to me, and I hope they brought her some comfort as well. I'd often discuss my childhood hospital memories with her in attempt to relate, but there was obviously no real comparison. When I was hospitalized, there was hope for a brighter future down the line. Josie knew her time was limited. I tearfully expressed how important these times were to me during her recent living wake, and when I said "I love you, Josie" and gave her a big hug, she quietly said "I love you too, Pete." I didn't want to overburden her with my being mushy, especially when she just wanted to have fun during her final days, but I just couldn't help but squeeze that part in, and I think she knew that.
This is the night that I told her that she was Mariah Carey, and she was cutting loose after breaking up with her boyfriend Tommy Mottola. I'd never heard her laugh so hard before. Thus began the concept of "Summer of Josie."
During our visit last month, we knew she wasn't doing well. She seemed very tired, and also rather sad. She did her best to have fun, but I think she was preparing to go. At one point while riding in the backseat of a Lyft to back to her apartment after having a couple drinks, she quietly fell asleep leaning on my shoulder. It was the nicest thing.
Below is a picture from right before we traveled to the hospital with Josie and her boyfriend Mathew, who I know is heartbroken today. This ended up being the last time she was out and about, as she was going in for a surgery that ended up being unsuccessful. After that, she went directly to hospice, where she died peacefully this morning around 1:30 AM, surrounded by Mathew and other friends.
Like the rest of you, I don't know what it's all about, or what exactly we're all doing here. It's something I've probably spent too much time on. If Josie wanted us to remember one
thing, I think it would be not to waste time. Even though the cancer eventually took her, she was always fighting for more time. Josie would want you to party, not hold
back, take that extra drink. It sounds like a cliché to say that sort of thing, but Josie really meant it. I don't know if everyone does.
One of the last things we did with Josie was see Jonathan Richman on February 23rd at the Bowery Ballroom. It was a muted set, almost seemed wistful. The last thing Jonathan said before he departed was, "The purpose of life is to feel the warm summer breeze on your skin." I think that sums it up perfectly.