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Faces Behind the Numbers: Joe Falk

Joe Falk with his family in 2019, including his wife, Linda Falk; son, AJ Falk and daughter Ashley Falk.
Courtesy Falk Family
Joe Falk with his family in 2019, including his wife, Linda Falk; son, AJ Falk and daughter Ashley Falk.

‘He was just the rock as usual,’ Linda Falk said of her husband, Joe Falk, who lived from 1968 until 2022.

It’s been almost a year since Linda Falk lost her husband.

On the week of what would have been Joe Falk’s 54th birthday, Linda told Sense of Community about Joe, and how she lost him, and who he was.

Linda says Joe was generous to a fault. Even when he got sick.

It was late in the second full year of the pandemic.

'He was doing better yesterday'

“We both had COVID," Linda says. "We'd both overworked ourselves through Christmas. He was helping me with gifts and all kinds of things when I was working. I'm a florist, and I was very busy at that time of year, as you can imagine. And he just he was the rock as usual, even though he was so sick.

“And we just we were so silly. We didn't even know we had COVID. And until it was just to the point where we were both just as sick as we could be.”

Joe died January 12, 2022. He was 53. Linda remembers having to call 911 the day after New Year’s — and that Joe was in the hospital 10 days. At first, he seemed to be doing well. But within a few days, things changed.

She remembers, "They called us at like 2 a.m. and I just I told the kids, ‘Get dressed. They, they've called us and said that Dad could pass away at any time.’ And I just sat there in shock like, no, this can't be — because he was doing better yesterday.”

Clad in heavy personal protective equipment, Linda was able to see Joe.

"They did everything that they could," Linda says of Springfield's healthcare workers. "He ended up on dialysis because his kidneys were just not functioning correctly. And everything that they tried to do seemed like it just made his poor body worse. And finally, three, three-thirty, I think it was that afternoon. We had to take him off the ventilator. Hardest decision I've ever made. But I knew I had to let him go, because I wouldn't want him to suffer.”

'My children were so brave'

Now that Joe is gone, his absence is keenly felt.

Joe and Linda tried to have children for a decade. Back in the early 2010s, they moved from Colorado to Florida to pursue fertility treatment. Together, they counted their two children as blessings from the Good Lord.

Linda and Joe’s youngest, Ashley Falk, is now 7 years old. Ashley’s most recent birthday was the day before her dad’s funeral. Linda says making it to Chuck E. Cheese and Urban Air was hard. But they did it.

“And then the next day was his funeral," Linda says. And my children were so brave. They stood up there and spoke with .me about Joe, at the funeral. They're amazing children. They're every bit as strong as Joe was.”

AJ Falk is Linda and Joe’s older child. He’s now 11. Linda brought AJ to KSMU studios and with Linda’s permission, AJ answered a few questions for Sense of Community about his father.

"What’s different about your life these days, now that your dad’s gone?" a KSMU reporter asked AJ.

AJ says, “Well, I don’t hear video game music downstairs anymore. You see, when he was alive, he used to play video games with his buddy Jeff. And they used to play a lot considering his back condition. He had a car accident and when was that, Mom?”

“2018,” Linda replies.

“Yeah, 2018," AJ remembers. "He had a car accident. And a couple of years after, he started getting into video games. It was very weird not hearing him chatting with Jeff on the microphone anymore.”

AJ says he enjoyed hearing his dad’s voice during the gaming sessions because it was a nice voice.

Linda says Joe put his voice to work as a radio DJ. Joe’s wide-ranging career also included work in TV operations, the travel industry and service in the U.S. Army.

'We have reason for joy'

Now that Joe’s gone, Linda doesn’t say she’s going it alone as head of her family. Relatives, friends and church members all stepped up when she and her kids needed material help. But Linda’s Christian spirituality is where she puts her focus.

She says, “Being that this is the first Christmas without him, we as a family are mainly choosing to concentrate on the fact that we have reason for joy. Because I know where Joe is. I don't have to wonder if I'll see him again. I know I will. And the reason for that is Christ.”

“Your faith is really something you're leaning on right now,” a KSMU journalist replies.

Linda says, “God has carried me through this, like I have never experienced. This has been the hardest year of my life. And he has so walked me through it.”

In the next part of Sense of Community, we’ll hear more from the Falk family. Linda’s brother-in-law, John Falk, died just five days after his younger brother, Joe.

Joe was 53.

John was 54.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.
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