By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FINNEYTOWN - When Joe Colonel began volunteering for the Northern Hills Fire District, the wives of the firefighters operated a telephone relay system to alert the men to emergencies.
Mr. Colonel's meals and sleep were interrupted countless times as he made life-squad runs and fought fires for 40 years.
After he retired, he continued to serve as the department's treasurer for another 10 years.
"He was a quiet man who wanted no attention, and he would help anyone he could," said Justina Jane, his wife of 62 years.
Mr. Colonel, a resident of Finneytown since 1956, died Thursday at Mercy Franciscan Hospital Mount Airy. He was 91.
A "devout Catholic who loved his country," according to his wife, Mr. Colonel was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1912 - two years before the outbreak of World War I in Europe.
His family moved to New Richmond when he was 4, and he hitchhiked to Purcell High School every day until economic hard times forced him to quit in order to help support his mother and five siblings.
Mr. Colonel worked as a shipping clerk at a yarn mill in New Richmond until the Army drafted him in 1942. He served in the Transportation Corps in London and LeHavre, France, ending up in Paris during the liberation.
He came away with haunting memories of hungry Parisian children, and he remarked that he never finished a meal there because he gave it away to the begging children.
Before he departed for Europe, he married Justina Jane Germann of Ripley. The couple moved to Cincinnati after the war when Mr. Colonel went to work as a machine operator for Procter & Gamble in St. Bernard. He retired in 1977.
But his kind heart and propensity for hard work had him volunteering for the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Meals on Wheels.
"He never had a dime in his pocket because he gave everything" to her to provide for their six children, his wife said. "He took every opportunity to work overtime that he could."
Mr. Colonel was a founding member of St. Vivian Parish. He loved to play poker, work jigsaw puzzles, garden, read the paper and listen to Placido Domingo and Charlotte Church.
In addition to his wife, survivors include four daughters, Sandy Westerbeck of White Oak, Nanette Colonel of College Hill , Diane Maltry of Colerain Township and Pamela Brooks of Finneytown; two sons, Gerald Colonel of Hebron and Stephen Colonel of Hamilton; nine grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
The funeral has been held. Burial was in New Richmond.
Memorials: St. Vivian Scholarship Fund, 7600 Winton Road, Cincinnati, OH 45224.
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