In memory of my Grandfather, a true American hero.
Compiled by his son (my father) - Wayne
Joseph Kirby Sandefur was born January 22, 1922, in the small Pike County community of Neal, Ga., the first surviving son of Joseph Kinard Sandefur and Elizabeth Taylor Sandefur. He was welcomed into the world by his older sister Carrie, herself only a baby when he was born, who affectionately referred to him as "baby brother" throughout their lives, with Joe calling her "sister". Joe's father was a sharecropper, as was common at the time, and little Joe was helping on the farm and in the fields at a very young age. His mother, known by friends as "Miz Lizzie" was busy with having the usual large family of the times, and specializing in cooking and caring for them. Joe's favorite food was bread, and he is fondly remembered by "sister" as carrying cornbread with him in his overall pockets. After Joe came younger sister Nancy and brother Tom.
By the time Joe was 8 years of age the family had moved to Fayette County, Georgia, where brothers John, Jack, and Billy were born and sister Fay. Joe loved his brothers and sisters greatly, and they all admired and looked up to him. Times were very tough in the 1930s and even before Joe was of age, he entered the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in order to help support the growing family, where he served at Chipley and Chatsworth, for a total of 18 months, driving a truck. Ironically, Joe injured his back in a truck accident while in CCC in an accident where he was not driving, and this injury resulted in a weakened back for the rest of his life. Joe returned to the family after being discharged from CCC. By this time the family had moved back to Meansville, Georgia, and after helping again on the farm, Joe took a job in the Martha Mills as a spooler and winder operator during 1941-1942. Joe was proud when the youngest and final member of the family was born, brother Kenneth, in 1941.
Answering the call of duty and again thinking to help support the family, Joe entered the Army in October of 1942, where he advanced to Medical Technician (MEDIC). He was assigned to the 743 Medical Hospital Ship, serving in both the European and Asiatic-Pacific theater of Operations in the care and treatment of the sick, injured, and wounded. Joe traveled to England, France, and Hawaii during WW11 and stood ready to enter combat, although he later considered himself fortunate to have not been called into actual battle. Joe was honorably discharged from the Army on Feb.12, 1946, after over three (3) years service to his country, receiving several good service ribbons and medals, including the most important one, the World War 11 Victory metal.
Joe returned to work at the Martha Mills for a while, but soon realized he wished to have a career or profession, and began to attend school under the GI bill to train for a career in auto body repair and refinishing, which he did while still working at the Martha Mills. It was at Martha Mills that Joe met his Bride-to-be, Vera Spires, who had moved to Thomaston with her two young daughters, Jeanette and Ann Brown.
Joe and Vera fell in love and were married February 27, 1948. Joe gladly took Jeanette and Ann as his own, as they did him as their new father, although it took little Ann a while to get used to Joe's trademark moustache. Joe began to work with Alvin Hudgins' Pontiac/Cadillac Dealership in Thomaston around 1949 while still working at the Martha Mills, and joined Hudgins full time in 1952, where he continued to receive schooling at the GM Training center in Atlanta. Joe quickly earned a reputation for doing high quality body work as the local Pontiac/Cadillac Body man, and began to build a high base of loyal customers who trusted his workmanship. Joe and Vera's only son, Wayne, had been born in 1950 and he joined his two sisters in establishing Joe and Vera's immediate family.
When Wayne was beginning the second grade, Joe was proudly able to buy his first house in Pike County and moved his family there in 1957. Joe and Vera loved to garden, and enjoyed the garden they established on part of the 5 acres with the property. Joe loved the outdoors and the woods and spent most of his free hours from work teaching Wayne about the woods, plants, and animals. Joe and Vera loved to fish, and carried the family on fishing trips whenever possible. Joe was well loved by all of Vera's brothers and sisters- the Spires, and their families. The Spires were always welcome in his home and the Spires loved Joe very much. Joe was saddened to have lost his father-in-law, Mr. Spires, in 1956, and his own beloved father in 1958.
Joe and Vera were proud when Jeanette graduated from high school in 1960, followed by Ann in 1961. Jeanette married Wayne Reeves, and Joe and Vera welcomed their first son-in-law to the family, one who has loved and cared for Vera and Joe since. Their first grandson, Michael, was born in 1963 to Jeanette and Wayne, and loved and admired by Joe and Vera. After Ann had graduated from high school in 1962, she married Wayne Hudgins, giving Joe and Vera their second son-in-law who equally loved and cared for Joe and Vera until Wayne's early death in 1993. In 1964, Ann and Wayne Hudgins had Joe and Vera's granddaughter Wendy, making Joe and Vera the proud grandparents of their second grandchild. Joe had begun thinking about moving back closer to Thomaston and possibly going in to business for himself, so he sold the home in Pike County and bought his second home, on Denham Street in "northside" Thomaston, in December of 1963. So, after 13 years as the auto body man with Hudgins Pontiac/ Cadillac, Joe decided to become self-employed and first went into partnership with his friend, Bill Flynn. Bill worked on engines and Joe did the bodywork. Then, Joe went into business strictly for himself in 1965, and was known to all his fellow associates as "the bodyman", where he built a successful career and retired in 1985, becoming known throughout the area for his quality work, his fairness, and his smile. In 1970 Joe and Vera were proud to travel to Mississippi to attend son Wayne's marriage to Margaret Jones, and welcomed Margaret as a daughter in the growing family. Joe and Vera were pleased to meet and become friends with Margaret's mother Martha, stepfather Bob Kirkwood, and sister Jane Jones. Margaret has always been a caring and loving daughter-in-law to Joe and Vera. Joe beamed from ear-to-ear when Mark Joseph, his namesake, was born in 1971 to Wayne and Margaret and immediately made him his lifelong buddy, helping Mark develop a love for the outdoors as he had and taking on a new name Mark gave him -- Papaw.
Joe and Vera were extremely proud when son Wayne graduated from Ga. State University in 1974, and equally proud when grandson Mark graduated from the University of Georgia twenty years later. You see, Joe had come up in tougher times and had not had the opportunity for schooling, and always wanted his children to get all the education they could.
Joe enjoyed his retirement in 1985, though his heart began to weaken and by-pass surgery was recommended but avoided by him until 10 years later. Joe began seeing Dr. Keith Huckaby who became a close friend and who did his best for Joe for many years on end and, with God's help, lengthened Joe's life significantly, The entire family and friends of Joe thank Dr. Keith Huckaby. Joe was deeply saddened to lose his cousin and best friend Talmadge Hudgins, his brother Tom, his mother "Miz Lizzie", his sister Nancy, and his son-in-law Wayne Hudgins. At the same time, he was proud his grandson Michael had married Ray Ann Walker and that granddaughter Wendy was now married to Terry Anderson. Joe and Vera were also very proud to have added great-granddaughter Ashley and great-grandson Ryan to Michael and Rayanne Reeves, and equally proud when Wendy and Terry Anderson gave Joe and Vera their second great-granddaughter, Sarah.
Joe continued to work in his garden and fish when he could, but he now tired very easily. He felt blessed to have such fine neighbors as William and Melba Storey and Jack and Mattie Lou Emmit who recognized he was growing weaker and helped he and Vera. Vera suffered a stroke in 1993 but with God's help survived and Joe did his very best to encourage and help her recuperate while himself growing weaker.
In 1995, Joe undertook the by-pass surgery which itself was a success. His main problem, however, was leaky valves on the opposite side of his heart, and by September he had to be emergency-flown to UAB Birmingham where he was near-death before Almighty God strengthened him enough to return home to his family again after several weeks there. Joe now wore a pacemaker installed in Birmingham. Joe and Vera enjoyed the Braves and Joe especially enjoyed their winning the World Series that fall after he returned from Birmingham.
Joe's appetite came and went and he occasionally had to check into the hospital to have fluid drained from his chest but otherwise did ok until July of 1997, when he drastically weakened again. Dr Huckaby consulted with UAB Birmingham again, and a pump was attached to Joe with medicine to strengthen his weak heart. This he wore everywhere he went, and he tried his best to continue to drive, do yard work, and help with the housework.
During this time Ann remarried and Joe had another son-in-law to greatly help and encourage him -- James Smith. Joe also had a great friendship during this time with two special ladies -- his grandson Mark's friend Amy Faulds and Ms. Desiree Carpenter, all of 4 years old at the time, and quite a special friend to "Mr. Joe". The day after Thanksgiving, 1997, Joe enjoyed his final fishing trip and caught a nice "mess", cleaning them himself. On January 3, 1998, after having Christmas and his final holiday season with his family at home, Joe weakened severely again, and spent two weeks in the Upson Hospital and then was transferred immediately to Thomaston Health and Rehabilitation Center. There he fought his best fight to get better, trying his best to walk and "sit up" when his heart was too weak. After realizing it must be God's will his strength would not return, he became ready to meet his Maker and now sleeps peacefully until that Day.
Joe read the Bible devoutly while he was at home and he and Vera were
too sick to attend Church. Joe applied its principles in his everyday
life. Joe deeply appreciated the prayers given to him and to the ministry
of Reverend Walter Perry in Thomaston, and Reverend Bob Corley in Birmingham.
Everyone who met Joe in his life loved him. We all miss you, Joe. And
we praise God for having known you.
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