Longtime RSVP volunteer remembered fondly by people who knew him
By CAROL PRZYBYLSKI
Special to The Gazette
This month, I have an unusual opportunity to highlight a unique and tireless Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) volunteer, the late Joe Murin. Because of Murin’s work with RSVP for the past 17 years and because of his commitment to the students at the Charles F. Fernandez Center Wood Shop, he was slated for this monthly column saluting a RSVP volunteer. Unfortunately, Murin died suddenly this past month so his story will come via those whose lives he touched.
Murin once told the RSVP Advisory Council that when he and his wife retired to Portage County, he decided to meet new people and give help where it was needed in order to learn about his new home.
On June 14, 1999, he became a volunteer with RSVP and was one of the first two volunteers with Justiceworks. His commitment spread. Murin logged 2,058 volunteer hours throughout his time with the RSVP program.
As the RSVP director recently told me, he felt Murin underestimated his volunteer hours “because it was such a part of his everyday life.” This sentiment was often repeated as I interviewed people for this article.
Murin’s widow, Barb, shared that he had worked as an industrial engineer in Illinois. After retiring and moving up here, she saw a whole other side of Murin that blossomed as he “worked to help others succeed.”
Murin loved woodworking and built things for the Symphony Choir, shelves for the Holly Shoppe, windmills, quilt racks and other items. He was also a volunteer at his church’s Stephen Ministry and was still visiting one person through that program at the time of his death.
To say that Murin had a passion for woodworking and for adolescents is a huge understatement. Even as his health slowed him down at age 84, his spirit for his passion never did. He would talk often and readily of the Wood Shop at the alternative center to anyone who would listen. He recruited other volunteers, donations of lumber and “became the spokesperson for the Fernandez Center.”
His greatest joy was working side by side with adolescents building not just “projects but relationships.” Murin insisted on a “smile and a handshake” whether at the Wood Shop, the Juvenile Detention Center, the Gateway Report Center, Folk Fairs or as a member of RSVP council. Patience for teenagers was one of his greatest assets.
He often amazed teachers in his ability to work with students in “his natural way of instructing and leading students while making them feel independent, comfortable and in control.”
Murin was one of those people that make you a better person for knowing him. Everyone I talked to about Murin felt the same way. Portage County was very lucky when the Murins decided to retire here and to volunteer where it was needed.
Editor’s note: Carol Przybylski is a RSVP advisory board member.