At Armstrong, Joe ran the most unconventional of corporate offices. There was a hiring freeze when I started, so I was freelance, then part-time, then eased into actual employment. During my part-time days, I also worked part-time at the Fulton Opera House, as its public relations manager. Joe clipped a photo of the Fulton staff from a mailer (that's me on the far left, in the back), and left this on my desk at Armstrong:
Joe had a life-sized cardboard cutout of Marilyn Monroe in his office; she was skimpily dressed for, I think, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." She was there for years before Joe's boss said, "Too naked for corporate office: She must go!" Joe was despairing, so I brought in a spaghetti-strap red gown I owned for some reason, and we dressed Marilyn in it. Problem solved.
In 1991, an artist created a very costly rust-and-boulder installation in the square below our office windows, and Joe was wroth. He didn't like the art, and he didn't like the expense, and it annoyed him to have it arrayed under his nose....
Before I moved to Lancaster, I'd worked in public relations and programs for an arts organization, so I knew just the sort of spoof press releases, artist's statements and invitations to openings that would cause maximum horror when I created a complementary installation in Joe's office. The Armstrong advertising department's props were stored down the hall from our offices--a warehouse-sized wonderland. There I borrowed fake boulders and twisted-up bits of ceiling grid, elements of my first installation: "Movement and Stasis," at "Joe's Casa del Arte." I don't have pictures of it, but Joe had a wire mesh in-box on his desk, which I filled with river rocks. Hilarity ensued when Joe came into the office.
Looking back on those days, I'm surprised our neighboring departments didn't complain more often about the noise coming from our area.
Besides laughter, we made a lot of noise rummaging and moving furniture around. From his days in the Air Force, Joe brought a very enjoyable practice of "repositioning" to his department at Armstrong. When we saw furniture or equipment going to waste in another department, we'd reposition it in two stages. First, we'd reposition it to a conference room. After a suitable interval, if no one seemed to notice, we'd reposition it to the employee communications compound. We got a really cool light table that way, and desks and chairs and lamps and things. A whiteboard. Good times.
Thank you, Joe.
In his office at Armstrong...1993-ish.
(LEFT/TOP) The caption we wrote for the photo is "This century's most powerful mind puts it all together." The quote behind him is '"No passion on earth, neither love nor hate, is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft." - H.G. Wells'
(RIGHT) Must have had a meeting somewhere; hence the tie.
I learned today that my all-time favorite boss died more than a year ago. I'm so sorry.
Working for Joseph R. DiSanto was a privilege: I got paid to learn about writing and editing from him, and he was a stellar teacher. We sometimes fought about politics, but mostly we laughed. He was one of the most brilliant, stoic, gallant people I have ever known.
During one harrowing, months-long editing project, our scribbles back and forth became so sarcastic that I made four large collages out of the clippings. I don't know if I still have those collages, but here is one little memory of Joe that I'll always save. I'd submitted the stories for a newsletter, and I was so bored by one of them that I was too lazy to give it a decent headline. This is what was returned to my desk:
Past travels with a trusty camera; current work on James E. Brewton Foundation research and memoir
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