Friday, July 4, 2008

Kepler Ohana Remembers Joey With Love

One family who is very close to Joey here on Maui is the Keplers Ohana. And Joey is very dear to the Keplers as well. Below are some of the memories they have of Joey as shared during the Memorial Service. They remember him with such fondness and love, they will treasure his memories forever.

Bill Remembers

Joey Johnson was a blessed young man, a really lucky guy, because he was so much like his parents. To begin with, he certainly did look like his mother—beautiful auburn hair, slim athletic body, a quick, ready grin. But his personality was just like his Dad’s, Joe. Just like Joe, Joey loved to have fun.

Joey had this ability to just reach out and grab on to life and just shake it. Just wring every last ounce out of it. Joey was a Junior at Baldwin when we meet him. One of his early adventures here was when the Hope Chapel Youth Group was cruising in a boat off Lahaina, and as they returned to the harbor, Kelly and Joey dared each other to jump off the stern and swim to shore--which of course they did! Then they got in huge trouble with the captain, who banned Hope Youth Group from his vessel forever and ever!

Later that year, at a Hope family camp at the 7 Sacred Pools, Joey jumped—not from the bridge, or from the cliff next to the bridge, but from the dangerous cliff into the lower pools, about 80 feet.

When Kelly went off to college in Washington State, Joey flew up from LA to surprise her, in a coffee shop, by popping his head out from behind a newspaper. This was funny and fun, but it was also much more. It was warm, loving, generous, and crazy!

So Joey, like his dad, was a guy who was full of fun.

Kelly Remembers

Joey and I fell in love as teenagers. We were each other’s 1st love. God eventually led us in different directions. I fell in love with Kevin who is now my husband. Joey fell in love with Rachel. I finally looked at Joey and Rachel’s blog last September and discovered the wonderful pictures they took which so beautifully captured their incredible journey. I know without a doubt that Joey truly and deeply loved Rachel. I was hoping they would invite me to their wedding some day.

Joey loved life. He was such an incredible guy. God blessed Joey with many gifts, gifts the Lord used to bring love and life to this world. Joey brought smiles, joy, and laughter to all who were lucky enough to have known him. His passion and zest for life shined in all that he did. Joey was honest, yet sensitive. Confident, yet humble. He was genuine, intelligent, and uniquely humorous. He was fun-loving with an adventurous spirit. It was good to have Joey on your side whenever there was some kind of team challenge. He was always a leader. I know lots of girls secretly had a crush on him and most guys envied him. He was true to his convictions and really stood for what he believed (just like his Mama and Papa). He made a difference in ALL our lives.

I feel incredibly blessed to have had four close, wonderful years with Joey. I will never forget the great times we shared – memories I will cherish forever. Karen and Joe, I want to say thank you. “THANK YOU” is what Joey said to me in one of the last letters I received from him. And now I am saying it to you. Thank you for all the amazing times I had with your family. My memories are not just of Joey, but also of the whole Johnson Ohana having a blast together. I was blessed to be included. You were my second family. Above all, I thank you for raising a son who taught me how to love and give. He learned from you. I learned from him. Hopefully my little boys will learn from me.

The night my dad called to tell me Joey had died, Joey came to me in a dream. Joey told me that he really didn’t die. I was so relieved and happy. I ran up to him and gave him a big hug as I said, “You’re still alive!” Now, looking back on my dream, I think Joey was trying to tell me that he IS alive. And now he’s looking down on us today saying, “It’s okay Mama and Papa. I am truly happy. I’m in the arms of Jesus now. I’ll see you soon.”

Lu Remembers

Sweet, sweet Joey. The boy with the red wavy hair who first captured our daughter’s heart and then ours!

Many of you here today didn’t really know Joey. You are here because you love the Johnson Family. My prayer is that by the end of this Memorial service, you will also love Joey and that you will know deep within your hearts what an incredible young man he was. Let that be Joey’s gift to you.

Joseph Neal Johnson. He loved Jesus and he loved his family. He had boundless enthusiasm, innate God given talent, an outrageous smile, incredible integrity, and profound wisdom. After hearing some of those stories Bill mentioned, you might think the wisdom took a little longer to develop than the others. But don’t for even one moment confuse Joey’s passion for life and his “try anything” attitude for lack of wisdom. It was impossible to feel “down” when Joey was around. He brightened our lives and made us laugh again and again.

I first met Joey the summer of 1995 when I accompanied the Hope Chapel Youth Group on their 1st trip to Mexico. Joey and his parents had been living in California and planned to move to Maui at the end of the summer. The plan was for Joey to meet us at Forest Home. The camp counselors told everyone to “be nice” to the new boy and make friends with him because he wouldn’t know anyone except Kristen Englert and Tawny Patterson. The 1st day of camp each group had to do a little skit. I have no idea what anyone else did, but I vividly remember Joey on the floor wiggling like a worm. On that very 1st day he became the most popular kid at camp!

I have never met a family who play and pray together the way the Johnson’s do. They are absolutely “the real deal.” Karen and Joe, you were (and still are) the model parents and grandparents that Bill and I aspire to be. And when we see you loving and praising the Lord even in the midst of the deepest sorrow you have ever known, you are a model for every person in this room.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Keplers, for all the wonderful stories and testaments you shared about our precious Joey. I am so glad I got to read them, since I was not able to attend the Maui Memorial... You guys played a huge role in Joey's amazing life... thanks for that, too. Love, Jo Anne

Joe and Karen said...

Dear Keplers...thank you for sharing your beautiful words with us. It means so much to us that you knew Joey so well and loved him so much. We were so blessed to have him in our lives, and we are so sad that he is gone. Our earthly existence is forever changed without him being with us, but Heaven looks ever more wonderful, knowing he's there. Thanks for all your support and friendship. We love you all so much.

Lu Kepler said...

Dear Karen, Joe, and Jo Anne,
It is so wonderful to hear from all 3 of you. Jo Anne, you are the only one we haven't been able to hug yet. I hope you can feel our love thru this blog! Bill and I spent the last 3 days at Keanae with our whole family. We knew that while the Kepler Ohana was together that the Johnson Ohana was together too. That was very comforting to us. However, our hearts felt very sad the entire weekend because we knew this was your first holiday without Joey. As we walked thru the taro patches, we thought of Joey...when we went to Ching's pond, we thought of Joey...when we ate shaved ice, we thought of Joey...and when we sat on the lanai swing, we thought of Joey. I think this is the 1st time we've all been out there and not played some kind of game together in the evening. As I write this, I don't think Joey would have approved of this "non-activity.". So I'm going to make sure we play LOTS of games the next time we're out there!!
Loving you all very deeply,
Bill and Lu