BRANCHPORT — Joseph Beauchemin’s parents were heartbroken when a doctor examined their newborn son and found a severe heart murmur.
"He told my parents I wouldn’t live to see 21 because I had such a bad heart. Well, I’m 77 now," Joseph "Joe" Beauchemin recently told the Catholic Courier.
That was the first but not the last time Joe would beat the odds, added his wife, Judy Beauchemin.
"Not only those doctors were wrong, but we’ve been told several times that he wasn’t going to make it through the night," Judy noted from her seat next to him in their log-cabin home, nestled high in the hills between Canandaigua and Keuka lakes.
Joe has fought his way back from a number of health-related scares, many of which are described in his 2007 autobiography, aptly titled Up From Adversity. A bad case of rheumatic fever left him bedridden for eight months during 1953 and 1954, and in 1971 he had major open-heart surgery. He had an angina attack in 1979, followed by a bout of depression, and in 1992 he suffered a stroke. Doctors told Joe he’d never walk again, but within weeks he was walking around his log cabin with the help of a brace and a cane. He’s also survived a quadruple bypass in 1997, hospitalization due to cellulitis in 1999, and a number of seizures and other ailments.
Although he now is confined to a wheelchair and his speech is occasionally difficult to understand, his mind is still sharp and he published his third book, Joe Beauchemin’s Storyteller Tales, in 2010. His second book, A Triad of My Literary Masterpieces for Entertainment and Enjoyment, was published in 2008 and is a collection of his songs, poems and stories. Currently he’s working on a novel.
"He has more trouble fighting with the computer than he does with the writing," Judy said.
"The last couple times I’ve been ready to throw this thing out the window," Joe agreed, gesturing towards his desktop computer.
Joe always loved telling stories, but it wasn’t until his family moved to Canandaigua from Saranac Lake that he grew to love writing, too. He attended St. Mary School, and his eighth-grade teacher, Sister Gertrude Marie, often kept him after school and made him write in composition books. Joe has never forgotten how she believed in him and enjoyed his stories in those early days.
Many of the stories sprinkled throughout Up From Adversity deal with Joe’s childhood and teenage adventures in Saranac Lake and Canandaigua. One of his favorite stories, and one that’s included in both Up From Adversity and Triad, describes the night he met Judy in September 1956. Joe, then in his 20s, was in Geneseo for a college dance when he saw a beautiful girl across the dance hall. He walked toward her, but by the time he reached her she’d started dancing with someone else, leaving Joe standing by himself.
Feeling self-conscious, he quickly tapped the shoulder of the nearest girl he could find, and when Judy, then a 17-year-old freshman, turned around he asked her to dance. As they danced, Joe noticed Judy’s beautiful figure, striking blue eyes, graceful dance moves and cheerful, caring disposition. The pair happily danced together for the rest of the night, and some of their friends called it love at first sight, Joe wrote in his autobiography.
"All of sudden you get a tap on the shoulder from someone you’re going to be with for 53 years," Judy reminisced. "I felt comfortable with him, and he was so protective of me. We just hit it off. He was my knight in shining armor. He was a gentleman, and that’s what made the difference."
Joe and Judy married on Sept. 7, 1957, and had five children. The couple belongs to Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community and have 14 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Joe dedicated his first two books to Judy and his daughter, Tammy Beauchemin Johnson, who each helped with proofreading and organizing the book.
"Their patience and assistance with my physical disabilities have made it possible for me to achieve my dream of becoming a published author and be able to enjoy the art of writing," Joe explained in the opening pages of Triad.
Joe also has drawn strength and inspiration from his strong faith and from the words of chapter 4, verse 13 of St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, which reads, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." These words hang on a plaque mounted near Joe’s computer and appear in the first pages of Up From Adversity because they’ve become a sort of personal motto, he explained. Joe doesn’t take credit for the many obstacles he’s overcome. Instead, he gives credit to those around him who’ve helped him through, and especially to God who’s given him the strength to never give up.
"I got battered around, banged up and I’m hanging in there, but it’s not me," he said simply.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about Joe Beauchemin’s books, visit www.amazon.com or www.PublishAmerica.com and search for Joseph Beauchemin.