I was recently informed that my good friend, Joe Gautney, had died. I have known Joe for about 36 years. He was working at TVA when I first started working there in the late 1970’s. Soon after hiring in I was asked to attend a one-week statistics class in Chattanooga. Joining me were Joe Gautney and two other employees: Jim Watson and Warren Fowler. Joe, Warren, and I ate dinner together every evening and engaged in other activities, one of which was going to a drive-in movie. Jim ate dinner with us the first evening, and then decided to do his own thing the rest of the week.
One of the things a lot of people, including me, remember about Joe back in those early years was his dedication to jogging. Weather permitting, we’d see him outside jogging around our work area during lunch.
Several times over the years Joe and I worked near each other, but never together on the same project. In the late 1990’s when TVA employees were going through an extensive RIF, Joe was laid off. Well, he was supposed to be. Through sheer tenacity, he was able to find occasional odd jobs. That in combination with his annual leave and leave without pay saw him through until he was able to get a full time position again.
For several years in the mid 2000’s, Joe worked in an office I passed every morning on my way to my office. Joe always arrived at work early, so most mornings I would stop for a chat. Joe and I could talk about anything. We’d talk about work, family, the future of TVA, retirement, etc. We also talked about religion and politics, topics on which we totally agreed. We were skeptical of both.
One thing I really admired about Joe was his commitment to honesty and justice. For Joe, your word was your bond. Whenever a person or group broke their word or didn’t fulfill an obligation, Joe was not above becoming angry and even downright ornery. And that’s not just me saying this; Joe would readily admit this about himself.
In the late 2000’s, when TVA was consolidating buildings, Joe and I were both moved to cubicles in a different building. We were located very close to each other so were able to continue our friendship. Joe was extremely diligent about keeping up with and being frugal with his money. If I ever needed answers to questions about our pension and 401K, he could usually answer them.
Although I had met Joe’s wife, Janice, a few times over the years, I never really got to know her until Joe started inviting me to have lunch with them on Thursdays. You see, just about every Thursday, Joe and Janice would eat lunch at a Chinese buffet in town named Evergreen. I became a semi-regular participant in those lunches. I found Janice to be just as friendly and down home as Joe was and really enjoyed our time eating together.
Unfortunately, Joe and I had not seen each other over the last several years. I semi-retired and was only occasionally at TVA. Joe finally fully retired. And as often happens in these situations we ended up not getting together anymore. Even so, I still think of Joe as a good friend and co-worker. I will miss him. Rest in peace, my friend.