Heroes without Headlines: Joseph Boytin, Part 7

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Digital Photographs Tony Mussari
Copyright 2013
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

“A memory is a photograph taken by the heart to make a special moment last forever.” Unknown

A note from a friend, some bumps in the road and a funeral for aFG_JB_5_sm member of the “Greatest Generation” got me thinking about life, death and everything in between.

The note contained an inspiring message about what really matters in life. It was the opposite of just about everything we hear and see in our cluttered, cultural celebration of fame, wealth and power. These, we are told, are the superhighways to happiness and joy. The note from my friend was filled with examples of caring, encouraging, and helping. It reinforced a powerful and poignant message Kitch and I got earlier in the week at St. John the Baptist Church in Larksville, Pennsylvania.

We were there to stand with a former student, Jeff Yedloski and his family, as he said good-bye to his grandfather, Joseph Boytin.


Mr. Boytin was a devoted husband, a loving father, a proud grandfather, a successful coach, a mailman and a friend to many. He served his country with distinction during World War II. At 94, he was one of the 16 million veterans who have been celebrated in quiet and poignant ways for what they did to free the world  from the totalitarian thugs who wanted to build a new world order of exclusion, intolerance and supremacy.

On this day, he was one of the World War II veterans who dieFG_JB_2_sm every ninety seconds in America.

St John the Baptist is a beautiful church. It is filled with artifacts of the church of my parents, a towering marble altar and larger than life spiritual paintings that speak to the love and forgiveness of Christ’s message. In this magnificent setting, Father Gerald Gurka spoke with empathy and honesty about the loss of a loved one:


There aren’t any words to relieve your pain;

Mr. Boytin’s death reminds us that we live on God’s time. Death is a homecoming;

We are hurting, but life continues;

Whenever we do something that your grandfather loved, he is very much alive, because his life was a reflection of the Beatitudes. He was generous, kind, dedicated, loving and committed to serving his community. In so doing, he created something beautiful which is in you;

Work is love named discipline.”

In a very real way, Father Gurka was giving life to the words of Scripture:

Behold God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.

At St. Mary’s Cemetery, I watched the members of the AshleyFG_JB_7_sm American Legion salute the man who earned the Purple Heart, the Good Conduct Medal and the European African Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with three bronze stars.

The pallbearers reverently carried his flag-draped coffin into the chapel where Father Gurka was waiting to say these words of farewell:

FG_JB_8_smThis is his flag, and this is our spiritual heritage.

Joseph Boytin is a genuine hero without headlines and a Face of America on its best day. He will be remembered for all the things that matter in life: family, faith, confraternity, neighborliness, industry, learning, empathy, kindness, responsibility and selfless service to his community and his country.

His life is a portrait of America at its very best. His legacy lives on in his family and those who were touched by the gentle mercies of his caring heart.

Charles H. Spurgeon wrote the words that best apply to Joseph Boytin’s life:

A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.

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