HACC remembers Joe Register

PJFREGIST Shawn Reed, Assis­tant Edi­tor

Joe Reg­is­ter, assis­tant pro­fes­sor and assis­tant chair of the Eng­lish depart­ment, died in his home on Sat­ur­day,  August 4th, end­ing his bat­tle with can­cer. He was 51.

I was tasked with writ­ing about a man I never met. I was not a stu­dent of Joe Reg­is­ter. I did not pass him in the hall­way, and if I had I might not have noticed. “Joe was an under the radar kind of guy,” said Kim Hall, assis­tant pro­fes­sor, of Eng­lish. Reg­is­ter grad­u­ated from Tem­ple Uni­ver­sity in 1986 with a BA in Eng­lish, and a MA in Eng­lish from The Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis in 1989, but accord­ing to friends, Reg­is­ter was a Philly guy.

He founded and self pub­lished a lit­er­ary mag­a­zine in 1998, “The Bucks County Writer,” In a 1998 inter­view with the Lehigh Val­ley paper, “The Morn­ing Call,” Reg­is­ter called him­self a writer, not “pro­lif­i­cally pub­lished,” but a writer. “Our job is to ben­e­fit writ­ers,” Reg­is­ter said. “Peo­ple want to pub­lish; that’s impor­tant for them, to be able to share their work.” A Bucks County author, Fos­ter Winans, told “The Morn­ing Call,” that see­ing Joe’s mag­a­zine in a local book store gave him the idea to open a writer’s lounge; he called it a “sign.” Per­haps the mea­sure of a man is not what he accom­plishes, but what he inspires oth­ers to accom­plish. “Pro­fes­sor Reg­is­ter inspired me to become involved in “Live Wire,” for­mer “Live Wire” editor-in-chief Shawn Shaknitz said. “The stu­dents of HACC have lost a great man.”

I think about his wife Lucinda Manges. At one time she was a HACC nurs­ing stu­dent, who moved on to become a prac­tic­ing mid­wife for the Amish. I think about his four daugh­ters, Mar­got, Ella, Sarah, and Jane. I did not know his fam­ily. I did not know the girls that favored him, or why they made him a “Best Dad” bas­ket­ball mag­net. The man described as a calm­ing influ­ence didn’t care for sports, other than watch­ing col­lege teams bat­tle for supremacy dur­ing March Mad­ness. The words were heart felt mes­sages from girls who shared a close rela­tion­ship with their father. Accord­ing to Kim Hall, he had accepted his mor­tal­ity after being diag­nosed with can­cer, but it was the idea of leav­ing his chil­dren he hated the most. “He always talked about his girls. He loved his girls,” said Hall. 

He worked in a restau­rant in his 20’s. He back­packed across Europe. He loved roman­tic poetry and drew par­al­lels between poetry and punk rock, and at one time, drove a brown Dodge Dart. He was a cham­pion of the under­dog. “Joe’s sto­ries were always about the sin­gle par­ent work­ing two jobs and still com­ing to school,” Hall said. He was obser­vant and mis­chie­vous with­out being obvi­ous and relied on humor to carry him and oth­ers through the day. The bul­letin board for the Eng­lish depart­ment was the work of Joe Reg­is­ter. He dec­o­rated for the hol­i­days, even though he wasn’t much of a hol­i­day per­son, accord­ing to Hall. “To look at him you wouldn’t think that Joe was the one that dec­o­rated the office at Christ­mas, but yeah he was,” Hall said. Chess, a game of logic, isn’t nor­mally the choice for overly cre­ative peo­ple, but Reg­is­ter loved chess. “He was always play­ing some­one online. He’d make his move, go to his class, come back and make his next move,” said Hall.

A theme began to emerge. The more peo­ple I spoke with about Joe Reg­is­ter, the more I heard about his humor, intel­li­gence, and kind­ness. Bar­bara McGraw, assis­tant pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish, shared a story of a con­ver­sa­tion Reg­is­ter had with a col­league. McGraw heard Reg­is­ter laugh­ing as he said, “One doc­tor said if I do this I might have three months, and another says a few weeks…They have all this infor­ma­tion for me but no infor­ma­tion.”  With a warm smile McGraw said, “But that was just Joe.” Elisa Weigard, library liai­son to the Eng­lish depart­ment, described Reg­is­ter as cre­ative, sup­port­ive of the library, and “really, really, funny.” Open-minded and wel­com­ing to depart­ments out­side of Eng­lish, he seemed to make oth­ers feel included. I found myself mourn­ing a man I had never met, a man I had never learned from, as his impact on oth­ers became obvious.

“I know this sounds cheesy, but I think Joe was the best of us and he’s not here any­more,” Hall said.

A schol­ar­ship is being cre­ated in Joe Register’s name. In lieu of flow­ers, memo­r­ial dona­tions would be appre­ci­ated to the HACC Foun­da­tion, One HACC Dr., Har­ris­burg, P.a. 17110 and spec­ify it is for the Joe Reg­is­ter fund.

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