Suddenly, this week, I lost a friend and valuable source – Joe Skokan, or “Joe from Mastercraft” as my staff and I referred to him over the last two decades. Joe died of a massive heart attack on the job. He was 68 and in the prime of life. Joe was not a “smiley” person. His feelings ran deep and he didn't always express them, but he had a heart of gold.
He was quite tall and on first meeting, he could appear daunting to some until you got to know him. I remember when Joe left his job in the aviation industry and started his company. He was, then, and has been ever since, my “go to” source for the best quality of indoor and outdoor fabrication of railings and gates. Joe took pride in his work, took his job seriously, and we loved to talk business together.
Back then my synagogue was in need of redesign and I offered my design services, pro bono, as well as my husband’s, and our woodworking company provided a new Bema (area from which the Rabbi and Cantor address the congregation) and where the Torah (the Holy Scrolls) are housed. It was raised up about 3 feet and needed railings and partitions that would be beautiful and functional. Of course, I came to Joe and we designed and he installed lovely and appropriate glass and brass partitions and stairway railings. When I asked for the bill, he demurred, saying he wanted his work to be a donation. When the synagogue renovation was complete, Rabbi Spar invited Joe and his family, along with a few other benefactors, to a Friday night service. Little did he know he would be called up to the bema he helped create. There were tears in his eyes as the Rabbi presented him with a Certificate of Appreciation and the thanks of a grateful congregation (I’m not quite sure, but to the best of my recollection, it was the first time Joe had ever been at such a synagogue service.)
My friend Joe was a good and kind man who treasured his family and his work and took great pride in both. Now I look forward to working with Tim, his loving son-in-law, who will be carrying on Mastercraft ,as well as his own awning company. As Tim told me earlier, “I was lucky to have Joe as my mentor and teacher. His work and work ethic will continue even though I will miss him dearly.”
Goodbye my friend, “Joe from Mastercraft.” Rest well knowing that what you built lives on.