David Elliott Joseph

Joseph, David Elliott, beloved husband, father, grandfather, and brother passed away on October 25, 5½ years after being diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme, a terminal brain tumor.

David was born in Buffalo, NY on July 23, 1948, to Donald A and Dvorah (née Sperling) Joseph. He received his BA in history and philosophy from Harper College in 1970, and then began his adventures abroad with a 2-year stint in Niger with Peace Corps, teaching English to French and Hausa speaking children, who assumed that because he was American, he knew James Brown. He disappointed them in that, but inspired them to learn English in part by writing letters to the godfather of soul. When he returned to the U.S., he continued his teaching career at the Murray Rd Alternative High School in Newton MA, where he taught philosophy, photography, French, history and whatever other subjects he and his students found interesting. David loved teaching, inspired his students, and was motivated in turn by them and by his colleagues. He met Andrea Bender in 1973 during a summer job they both worked selling Great Books of the Western World, back in the day when books, not smartphones, held all the knowledge in the universe.

When he decided to pursue an MSW, Andrea patiently endured the three summers he spent in academic studies as one of 15 men in a class of 50 at Smith College. They survived the odds and married in May, 1975.

After a 25-year career in social work, David was wooed away by the prospect of combining his love of teaching with his desire to help heal the world, and launched his second 25 year career as a mediator and peacebuilder. He joined the Public Conversations Project (now known as Essential Partners) as a volunteer facilitator of difficult conversations in 1996 while still practicing social work, and then formally, in 2004, as Director of Programs. He was a trainer extraordinaire among extraordinary fellow trainers. He conducted workshops for peacebuilders around the country and the world in the principles of reflective structured dialogue. He relished his relationships with his collaborative colleagues and valued all he learned from them. He was thrilled to have the opportunity to return to west Africa to work with the Interfaith Mediation Center through EP’s partnership with the University of Massachusetts, Boston, over a period of five years. He made it his mission to train and inspire the next generation of practitioners so that the work would continue.

His vocation was his avocation, and he was a founding member of Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBBI). He served on the board and as chair of the board from 2018 until recently, when his health forced him into retirement and he was named Chair Emeritus. MBBI received the International Advocate for Peace Award from the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution in 2020 during his tenure as Chair. He provided dialogue training and consultation in the US, Canada, Greece, Indonesia, Romania, Thailand, Nigeria, Liberia, and Burundi. He designed and facilitated training and dialogues about polarizing issues such as immigration, class, race, intra and inter-faith, gender, marriage equality, domestic violence, political differences, and many other issues in the United States. His international work focused on promoting interfaith coexistence and collaboration; restoring and enhancing community resilience in post-conflict situations; and immigration.

He helped found the Providence Community Mediation Center (now the Center for Mediation and Collaboration of Rhode Island) in 1996, and will be the first recipient of the David Joseph Peacemaker Award at their 25th Anniversary celebration in November.

He served on and was president of the board of Temple Beth El in Providence, was a member of the Social Justice Committee, and taught Sunday School for many years.

David was a tennis player until his shoulder decided against it. He took up rock climbing and was a faithful devotee who could be found 3 or 4 times a week at the local climbing gym. There he was beloved by staff and other climbers. Not only was he always willing to help others solve climbing problems, he became known as a trusted listener on personal issues, and he was sought out for his sage counsel. He also was a distinctive, familiar figure to neighbors as he walked his daily 5 miles, early on wearing his cowboy hat, and in later years, his sunhat to protect his irradiated brain.

He split his loyalties between his native Buffalo Bills and his local team, the Patriots. In 2017 his sons took him to the Super Bowl (traveling to Houston from Rhode Island and Rwanda, respectively, while Andrea watched (intermittently) from home as the Patriots pulled out a win in the greatest Super Bowl in history.

Given that the average lifespan of GBM victims is 12-14 months, David and Andrea considered themselves fortunate to have had over 5 years post-diagnosis to spend time with their sons Jesse and Seth (Jodie), and their grandchildren, to travel, and to do meaningful work.

In addition to Andrea, Jesse and Seth, David is survived by Jesse’s sons Alexander and Davey, and Seth & Jodie’s children Stella and Pierce. He was the older brother of Judy (Bruce) Ramsey and Ruth Ma’ayan (Dick Fate), and uncle to Judy’s daughter Elyse (Mohit) and Ruth’s children Vincent (Sunny) Valentino, Tal Ma’ayan and Ariel Ma’ayan, and Tal’s daughter Leila. His extended family in Buffalo included nine cousins, all of whom remain close.

He and Andrea held hands until the end.

A private in-person memorial service will be held at 2pm on Nov 13. It will be streamed live (information to be provided in the coming days at David | CaringBridge).  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Essential Partners at https://whatisessential.org/donate, Mediators Beyond Borders International at https://mediatorsbeyondborders.org/donate/, or Center for Mediation and Collaboration at http://www.cmcri.org/donate.html

9 Comments

  1. John D’Andrea
    Oct 30, 2021

    My deepest condolences to Andrea and to the extended Joseph family. David was a special person in every respect and ‘walked the talk’ when it came to his passion for listening and helping anyone and everyone. It was a privilege and honor to have known him.

  2. Arthur Plitt
    Oct 30, 2021

    Prouder to shared Reiki energies with both of you- Namaste

  3. Stanley Freedman
    Oct 30, 2021

    Enjoyed teaching with David at Temple Beth-El

  4. Victoria Gray
    Oct 31, 2021

    I am so pleased to have known and worked with David and send my family’s most sincere condolences is this terrible loss.

  5. Dave was a peoples’ person. He treated people with respect and believed in relationship building which is a great skill in mediation.
    We will miss him dearly at MBBI. May the Almighty God rest his soul in eternal and also give his wife and children the strength to move on without him, Amen!

  6. Judy Famiglietti
    Nov 1, 2021

    Met Dave and Andrea at our Books on the Square book club and quickly realized we were blessed with a pair of treasures. I wish we could have had Dave with us longer – knowing him as briefly as I did made me a better person. Andrea, I hope you will return to our group when you are ready. My deepest sympathy to you and all who knew and loved Dave.

  7. vivian Malloy
    Nov 1, 2021

    Our Books on the Square book club was specially fortunate to have Dave as a participant for the time that we did. Reading his obituary I am struck with what a full and rich–and giving–life Dave led. An extraordinary man, my sympathy to you Andrea and all your family.

  8. Anne Bozzi
    Nov 2, 2021

    Dear Andrea,
    My deepest sympathy to you and your family on the loss of your wonderful husband Dave, who enriched our Book Club with his ideas and insights. He will be missed and long remembered. We are all thinking of you and hoping you will return to your Book Club friends.
    Blessings,
    Anne

  9. Jacob Hess
    Nov 17, 2021

    Dave changed my life for the better! Here’s a tribute I wrote with help from others in the Utah cohort – and a link to an interview I conducted with him. Love to you, Andrea and family. Thanks for sharing Dave with all of us. https://publicsquaremag.org/faith/tributes/the-gentle-power-of-dialogue-legend-dave-joseph/

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