This morning I read a brief tribute online from Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino to Joseph Acocella, the town clerk of nearby Harrison, NY who had passed away. I get notices on the loss of Realtors and public officials with some regularity, so I just assumed Mr. Acocella was someone who was older. Who would expect otherwise.
In logging onto the Journal News, however, I found out that Joe was just 30, and had battled health challenges his whole life. This hits close to home for me– my older brother Paul also died young-too young- after a lifetime of fighting, battling, and overcoming diabetes, kidney failure, a temporarily successful kidney/pancreas transplant, and many other issues, one setback after another. The story had a picture of a wheelchair bound Acocella – a double amputee- on his job as clerk, looking forward.
Only 30. He was the youngest New Yorker ever elected to a town clerk position in 2007, and he distinguished himself by modernising the town system and putting town records online (something people like me really appreciate). And he did all this despite being on dialysis 3 days per week, which if you are unfamiliar, is utterly exhausting. My brother sometimes needed a day to recover from dialysis, and he wasn’t much older than Mr. Acocella.
To distinguish onceself in such a public position despite such physical challenges is really heroic. It takes a very special person. And in a time when we are confronted by bad news all around, it is a reminder that we have good, good people in our midst, and we should appreciate their contribution more than we do. According to the local Patch.com, he was a Fordham guy as well who was a leader going all the way back to high school despite the percieved roadblocks. What an inspiring person. I really wish I knew this guy. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: sometimes God takes his best work back early.