Leader, warrior, friend.
That is what Joe Trujillo was to me. Over a decade ago on one of Joe’s hikes I asked why didn’t the club have activities geared to single people. Joe replied,” I don’t know, but why don’t you start leading some”? And with that Joe introduced me to leading activities for the Outdoor Club. He was a warrior having fought during World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam. He never backed away from what he felt was wrong or what he saw as an injustice. Many times I saw him take one issues within the club that he felt were wrong. He had always encouraged me, and others, to do new things and very seldomly said no to a new idea for an outdoor activity. His leadership will be missed.
You have fought a brave fight and distinguished yourself with honor and dignity and have earned your right to rest now.
As newcomers to southern New Jersey and OCSJ in 1988, we quickly came to know Joe and considered him the personification of the best the Club had to offer. As a leader, he was highly knowledgeable of the hike areas and their history, and we always knew we were in good hands.
We were also aware of the many hours he worked behind the scenes to make sure the Club functioned smoothly. In addition, chatting with him on the trail or at lunchtime made the time fly.
We'll personally (and the Club) miss a "one-of-a kind" guy.
Herb & Roz Rosenbluth
We fondly remember the happy times spent with Joe, hiking and enjoying the Pine Barrens in NJ. Our deep condolences to Joe's family and friends.
Joseph and Sharon Graham
I was the Outdoor Club's Corresponding Secretary in the late 1990's when Joe took over as its President. My deep condolences to his family and friends at this sad time. I definitely remember (and will miss) his passion for the Club...from chairing the meetings to leading Moonlight hikes to working on the 'Beast of the East'.
I'll bet he's already asked St. Peter to submit his hikes for the Fall schedule . . .It's got to get to the printer, ya know!!
Joe, a true Renaissance Man
I first met Joe in the mid seventies when my son and I went on a hike from Mt. Holly to Smithville, but my husband and I have roamed the out of doors with him regularly since 1987. In fact, my husband and I met on one of Joe's bike and swim activities at Harrisville on July 25, 1987, and I have always considered that our true anniversary. In the following years we continued to bike, hike and camp with Joe, in not only such far flung places as the Canadian Rockies and Colorado, but also in states much closer to home. But mostly it was in our beloved Pine Barrens of NJ that we enjoyed the pleasure of his company. If Joe was leading an activity, it almost guaranteed that you would enjoy yourself and really have a good time, because he would literally stop to smell the flowers. He was also an avid history buff who could give you all kinds of background information about any area in which he led us, he could recommend books for more information on those areas and would even quote related poetry. Although most roads and trails and fire cuts all look alike to the average person, Joe almost always knew exactly where he was and how to get to where he wanted to go. He was truly amazing in that way. Joe became a master of anything he enjoyed doing, and a wellspring of information about anything that caught his interest. He also had a very encouraging and complimentary way about him, and just to be in his company made you feel good about yourself. He was a real people person, who never forgot anyone - he would remember both you name and your "story." To me, he was The Outdoor Club, and if you had a question about anything that ever happened in the history of the club, he either knew the answer or would have it for you the next time you saw him. To me he was also the best president we ever had, and his work on the schedule as our Activity Chairman gave us the diversified and active club we have today. He spent untold hours putting the quarterly schedule booklet together - everything had to be perfect. Joe was ageless - he never seemed to grow any older. My sister on a visit in recent years guessed him at being 60. She said that she assigned him that advanced an age, as she knew ours was an older group. But like my own beloved father, Joe did not live forever as I expected him to. I don't know how we will ever fill the empty spot in our lives and in our hearts, left behind by his passing.
Happy trails to you, until we meet, again
Borrowing a line from a song made famous by Hollywood cowboy Roy Rogers and his cowgirl wife, Dale Evans, hikers bid good-bye, “Happy trails to you.”
On a trail in the early 1980s, I first encountered Joseph N. Trujillo. The other day, I initially recalled the trail likely being in the area of Carranza Memorial, or as Joe would say in the Espanol of his ancestors, Cah-rrrahn-zah. Later, I thought it was probably around Pakim Pond. Now, I am sure only that it was in the Pine Barrens with the Outdoor Club of South Jersey.
Upon first seeing Joe, I did not realize the slender man with a slight Hispanic look and a bit of a Southern accent was the heart and soul of the Outdoor Club.
The heart, because he pumped life into the club. Every three months, he produced the lengthy club schedule, the Trekker, and, more frequently, led outings: hiking firecuts, tubing meandering tea-colored rivers, camping on sandy soil, and even organizing city bus trips.
The soul, because, for Joe, it was not simply a walk in the woods. A few years ago, another Outdoor Club leader and student of the Pines, Mike Baker, mentioned he thought some hiked the woods simply for the walk, uninterested in what the Pines are. Mike, others, and I know Joe, fortunately, was not that way; He understood the woods. Joe knew how to get from Evans Bridge to Jemima Mount without a GPS. (As OCSJ leader Dave Hegelein would say, pointing at his head, “This is my GPS.’’) Joe knew Martha was not a woman, but a Pine Barrens ghost town. He knew Calico, another spot in the Pines, was another name for mountain laurel.
Humbly, he shared this information, taking on an added role as a voice of the Outdoor Club and, more importantly, voice of the pine-oak forests, the Atlantic white cedar swamps, the clearings, and the hills such as Apple Pie and Tea Time.
About the pyxie flower, globally rare, but abundant in the Pines, Joe said, “Isn’t that a beauty? Tiny, fragile, beautiful. Man, you can’t beat nature on things like that.”
About the graceful, yet jumpy, tundra swans of Whitesbog: “I like to come in from the woods, they never suspect you’re coming. You hush everybody down, we ease out on the (cranberry) dike and come on in the open. We kind of walk really slowly, so everybody can get a glimpse of them.”
As for spring in the Pine Barrens, when the carpenter frog calls and the trailing arbutus blooms, that, according to Joe, “is absolutely the best.’’
Joe spoke of the Western night sky of his childhood bursting with stars. He talked of his first experience with pesky chiggers and their incredibly itchy bites, something he found out about while hiking with the Army in his native Southwest. Joe talked about outdoor writer Edward Abbey’s writing about those other pesky creatures, tourists.
How could anyone not know Joe was the Outdoor Club’s heart and soul? He wore the coolest hats, had great-looking knapsacks, and carried a trusty hiking stick. Man, he walked right out of an L.L. Bean catalog. Joe, however, was the real deal.
Once, as Joe was beginning a hike, I snuck up and grabbed his hiking stick. The idea was to get the military-logistical Joe, as he began the hike, to realize it was missing and panic. But he did not, he simply began hiking. Now, I was in a panic.
Joe does not realize his hiking stick is missing, I thought, and, when he does, he will go into a real panic.
Finally, I told him, “Joe, I have your hiking stick. ”
“I know you do,” he said without concern.
That joke was on me. But Joe could take a joke.
Once on an Outdoor Club hike, Joe noticed a plant.
“Look at how that is growing out of the ground,’’ Joe said.
To which, George Muscat, a colorful club member, replied in his native Maltese accent, “Of course, it’s growing out of the ground. Where do you think it is coming from, the air?’’
Joe smiled, goofily.
Another time, Joe, the straight-laced career soldier, and Joe Graham, a not so straight-laced former Army man, were on a hike. Both had served in Vietnam, Joe Trujillo in service to his country, Grahambo perhaps more in service to himself. During the Vietnam War, soldiers went to Bangkok for rest and relaxation. Something jogged Joe Trujillo’s memory about plant-life in Bangkok.
“You remember those pretty red flowers in Bangkok?’’
Grahambo laughed, “I don’t even remember Bangkok.”
Joe, the good soldier, said, “There’s always one like that.”
Trujillo is a common Hispanic name. Occasionally, I would see a newspaper article about a Trujillo, linked to an armed robbery or some such in Missouri or wherever. I would repeat the news to Joe and ask, “Any relation to you?’’ I know, I know, Joe, there is always one in the crowd.
On that day 25 years ago, when I first encountered Joe, he became a mentor to me, one of a handful that taught me about hiking and the Pine Barrens. And, more importantly, Joe taught me about life in general. Was he flawed? Sure, as we all are.
Our friendship was that of a bit of an odd couple on the surface: almost 40 years apart in age; one a native of the Southwest, the other from Central Jersey; one a retired United States Army sergeant major, one a pacifist. As happens in friendships, the focus is not on differences, but in liking one another.
Shortly after Joe died, another OCSJ leader extraordinaire, Chris Denneler, told me, “Joe was very fond of you.’’
And I loved Joe Trujillo. When he was around, I always felt safe – and that is rare.
I last talked to Joe on the afternoon of Sunday, June 14. In the approximately five-minute telephone call, he said he did not look himself, how his sickness was draining him. I probably should have known that would be the last time I talked to Joe.
On the night of Monday, July 13, I discovered a “missed call’’ on my cellular telephone, without the caller leaving a voice-mail. The phone number was unfamiliar, but I recognized the “856” South Jersey area code. For the most part, the only South Jersey people I know are Outdoor Club members. Within seconds, I thought, This isn’t good, Joe died.
When I got home about a half-hour later, I found an e-mail, confirming Joe had died, that morning. I turned from my desk to the bookshelf behind me and pulled down Howard Boyd’s Wildflowers of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, a book Joe had given me.
Inside the front cover, Joe had wrote, “Hope you find this guide useful.’’ He signed it, Sarge, as I sometime called him.
I don’t want this stupid guidebook, I thought. I want the sarge still around, to be my guide.
Later, I realized life, or death, does not work that way. But, with death, life goes on. Proteges become mentors to new protégés, who become mentors to newer protégés, and so on. Memories of Joe and other mentors will live, along with their knowledge, which will be passed on.
With that said, I cannot help fantasize an Outdoor Club of South Jersey hike is, right now, trying to get started in a heavenly woods. Not actually starting, trying to get started. For there is a delay: Bill Sussman argues a point – about what, I do not know; Peggy Flanagan chatters away -- about what, I do not know. Chester Park, who has been standing aside, watching, finally pulls out his ground-cloth, sits on it, and pops a nip of beer. Joseph N. Trujillo, the leader, cannot take it anymore….
He blows his whistle and says, “Come on, let’s get moving!’’
With that, our old friends, with Joe leading, take off down the trail.
We wave good-bye, saying “Happy trails to you -- until we meet again.”
I just wanted to thank you all for your thoughts and prayers for my grandfather & our family. It gives me great pride & honor to hear my grandfather spoken so highly of. Living so far away I didn't really get to see him as much as I would have liked, but it was our last couple visits that I really got to see the passion he had not only for hiking, but for life. The last time I saw him he was out west going on a hike, and he told me how much the club meant to him, and how it gave him a new found life after retirement. As soon as I heard of his passing I immediately thought of his club. After reading all the wonderful things everyone had to say about him I thought you all should know that as much as he meant to you. You meant as much to him.
Joe wrote trip reports for many activities that he led or co-led. His enthusiasm and great love of the outdoors shows through in them such as the one below, which was sadly his last.
Bruce Steidel, OCSJ Hiking Chair
Trip Report: BATONA Trail Maintenance, 22 March 2009
Sixteen members came out to “give back” to the woods for the enjoyment they get from hiking the trails. The weather was perfect. A clear, sunny day, lots of blue skies, temperatures in the mid 50’s. With cutting tools in hand, three groups took to the trails to cut and trim. One group tackled the heavy growth on the BT from Route 679 to Martha Road. Another group cut and trimmed from Route 679 to Evans Bridge on Route 563. The third group took to the mile long Harrisville Pond Trail. By 1:00 p. m. the crews were done, the trails were better than ever, we called it a day. All objectives had been met. The participants were great workers and took to the cutting and brushing with enthusiasm.
Thanks to each one for an outstanding job!
Joseph Trujillo and Christine Denneler, Leaders