There was just something about him. He had a charming sense of humor. He had a smile that was almost a smirk. – Jodi Taylor, ADEC Guardian Advocate

Joel Oaks, or “Joey,” as his friends lovingly called him, never missed an opportunity to go outside. He loved sitting in his swing or rocking chair outside the Duplex in Bristol, just taking in the day.

“When I was a DSP, I took him to the park to walk one day,” Supported Living Case Coordinator Cindy Morris remembers. “He saw a real swing at the playground. He beelined right for it and sat on it. I gave him a little push, but then he pushed me away and he just swang. I’ll never forget his face. He was loving it.”

We don’t know much about Joel’s life prior to coming to ADEC in 2005 for guardianship services. We do know he was born in Randolph County, IN, on July 3, 1947. We also know life wasn’t always kind to Joel. We believe he was entered institutionalized care when he was five years old. In 2005, Joel was living with a local provider. In 2008, his guardian decided ADEC’s Supported Living Services were a better fit. Joel moved into the duplex at the age of 61. The next nine years would be pure joy.

Prior to coming to ADEC, Joel really hadn’t spent any time in the community. Everything was new as he began going to day services, heading to the store and taking car rides.

Joel loved going for rides with his staff members. Cindy and Jeff Wagner said Joel didn’t say much, but he was always verbal about what he wanted. He’d say, “Joey go for a ride?”

Everyone looked forward to being able to take Joel for a ride because his reactions were so genuine as he gazed out the window and took note of everything around him.

Joel could keep perfect time with the beat of music playing on the radio, and he enjoyed playing the drums. He had a variety of instruments in his bedroom that he’d play as staff listened and encouraged him. A few years ago, Cindy brought Joel to the Morris Theater in South Bend to see STOMP, a drum show.

“He loved it,” Cindy said. “He just took in the whole thing and would make the best little noises.”

Every year on Joel’s birthday, he’d enjoy a trip to the Potawatomi Zoo with Cindy. They’d take the whole day, packing lunch, snacks and drinks to keep them cool and comfortable.

“It took hours because he wanted to see every animal and sit down at every bench we saw,” Cindy remembers. “He wanted to sit down so he could take in the whole experience. His favorite exhibit was always the flamingoes because of the honking noises they make. He had to make the sound too as he watched them.”


Joel passed away on February 20, 2017. On March 14, his ADEC friends and family remembered him at a Memorial Service at ADEC Day Services at Bristol. One after the next, Joel’s friends came up and shared their memories and love for Joel.

“Joel changed my life when he smiled,” Pam said.

“He was a good friend of mine,” Kevin said.

“I miss Joel,” Dean said. “I think about his memories and I feel good about him.”

“You were a good friend,” Rex said.

“Joel’s a great guy,” Homer said.

Joel was my friend. Joel wasn’t complex, yet if you didn’t know him, you might think so. His needs and wants were within our means. ‘Go for a ride’ was an on-going request. We would take him when possible yet when we got back he would request going for a ride again. Maybe we just never got the destination right? But as time wains on and he dozes off,  we hear, ‘I wanna go to bed.’ It was always special to hear Joel put words together. This phrase was priceless. Joel would try to run at times, or put up a good fight to not be dismayed to go sit in the sunlight. He knew what he wanted, and yet I thought I knew what was best. Together we learned from one another and worked together to achieve a ‘Good Life’ balance. I miss him and selfishly want him here with us. But, he’s not with another agency, or in the care of another Special Guardian. He’s with the Lord. I am so happy for him. And our blessing, through God’s grace, will be to see Joel whole and happy! Gives me such Hope.

– Lisa Kline, Technology Room DSP at ADEC Day Services at Bristol.

Photo by Cindy Morris | ADEC Supported Living Case Coordinator

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