Joe Seth Maxfield was born on a farm east of Porum, Oklahoma on July 11, 1932, and went “home” to his Heavenly father and many loved ones on May 26, 2019. He was 86 years old.
Joe was the son of Lora Louanne Maxfield and Walter Charlie Maxfield, former residents of Waldron, Arkansas, who moved to Oklahoma in 1919 by covered wagon. He had one sibling, Yvonne, 12 years his senior. His maternal grandmother, Susan Katie Watson, also lived with the family. The age span between siblings gave them each the feeling of being only children especially with the farm being more than a mile from the nearest neighbor. Because his parents were both 40 when he was born, Joe’s life was more subdued than most children and his manners and social graces were reflective of the maturity of his caregivers. Lora wanted Joe to be an 1890’s gentleman, but Walter got ahold of him often enough that he knew the rigors of farm life as well. He decided farming was not his calling.
Joe graduated as valedictorian of his class at Porum High School in 1950. When anyone praised him for this, he often quipped that he, “may have been the only one who could read.” Untrue as this was, it evidenced a humble nature that colored his entire life. He began his college education at nearby Connors College in Warner, Oklahoma, and earned his Teaching Certification and a degree in Elementary Education from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Later, he was awarded his Masters and Masters+60 degree by the University of Tulsa. While at Northeastern, he met a creative, beautiful musician and Education major named Jeanette Coyan at the Baptist Student Union, and the two were married on June 2, 1956. Their 61 year union was an incredible partnership which brought out the best characteristics and talents of each and resulted in the birth and rearing of two daughters; Claire and Adele.
Joe began his teaching career at a downtown Tulsa business college where he taught typing, shorthand, and accounting. He and Jeanette soon moved to Broken Arrow where he became an elementary homeroom teacher, later advancing to the rank of Assistant Principal in Claremore, Oklahoma. The family then moved to Tulsa where Joe again taught homeroom subjects at Mark Twain Elementary and eventually became Principal at Lincoln, Remington, and Grimes Elementary schools consecutively. In the role of Assistant Principal and Principal, he was a true diplomat whose active listening served him, his teachers, the students and their families well. (He did, however, fashion exquisite handmade paddles for occasions which called for sterner disciplinary measures.) His infinite patience and compassion, coupled with his sense of fairness and discipline produced gentle justice, and he never disciplined without making sure the subject absolutely understood the infraction which had led to this corporal consequence. –Claire and Adele can attest to this!
Over the years, many commented on Joe’s 6’3”, slender, lanky build, somewhat swarthy features, and prominent nose, and suggested he was the very image of Abraham Lincoln. Claire and Adele begged their daddy to grow the beard to complete the resemblance, but Joe refused. “Facial hair scares little children,” he said, and never satisfied the request. Even with Jeanette’s prodding, he only ever once portrayed Lincoln for a show. Like Lincoln, Joe was a thoughtful man who pondered his words before he spoke. This virtue was always a boon to his career and his family life. His girls adored their “slow to anger” daddy, Jeanette benefited from his calmness, and Joe himself gained a reputation for kindness. When one of Claire’s friends described him as, “the most Christ-like man [he’d] ever known,” Joe was exceedingly embarrassed, feeling comparatively unworthy of this high compliment.
Joe involved himself in several enjoyable pastime activities including biking, gardening, and storytelling. He was a member of Tulsa FreeWheelers bicycle club in the 1980s, and served as the president of the Tulsa Area Daylily Society for several years: writing their TADS newsletters, attending national conferences, and tending over 200 carefully labeled varieties of daylilies in his backyard. Although they are edible, Joe never ate a daylily joking, “We do not eat daylilies. We worship daylilies!” When asked which was his favorite, he diplomatically answered, “The one I’m looking at.” Joe enjoyed the art of storytelling and creative writing. Two of his stories beloved by his family were The Fierce Baritone Beast and Geraldo Guitar Bird. He and Jeanette were members of the Territory Tellers organization and especially loved the storytelling of Elizabeth Ellis. Before his retirement from Tulsa Public Schools, Joe was an active member of Civitan International, an organization providing volunteer help to the outreach activities of existing service organizations; aiding community needs; and supporting the research of Autism, Down Syndrome, Rhett Syndrome, and other disabilities dealing with the brain.
In Tulsa, Joe was a member of First Baptist Church where he taught elementary Sunday School several years. Later, he and Jeanette became members of Fellowship Congregational Church. His family was musically and dramatically oriented and he enjoyed singing and attending concerts, operas, musicals, and plays. His beautiful baritone voice graced the ranks of numerous choirs and choruses from college onward…most of which were accompanied by Jeanette. One of his favorite solos was a parlor song called Three for Jack which highlighted the skills of the duo and kept listeners smiling and completely entertained.
In 2011, Joe and Jeanette transplanted themselves to a home next door to their younger daughter Adele in Muncie, Indiana. This also located them near Claire whose Lakeview, Ohio home is only two hours away. They joined Grace Episcopal Church but attended Lutheran Church of the Cross where Jeanette was organist. In Muncie, Joe continued to be Jeanette’s excellent partner and gardener: composting; running errands; copying music (to spread across various keyboards); keeping up with her keys, organ shoes, and the remote control. Reading the paper in bed with her morning coffee was one of Jeanette’s luxurious pleasures, and Joe loved serving her this way. Adele’s analogy is entirely accurate, “He was the gardener and she was the flower.”
In 2015, Joe began displaying signs of dementia. He had suffered a stroke in 2008 which left no visible disability. In 2014, he had a second. This stroke left him a bit confused with an unsteady, altered gate on his left side. He used a walker to get around and soon began to ask illogical questions repeatedly. As his dementia progressed, Jeanette reversed their roles, caring for Joe until her death in December of 2017. After that, Claire and Adele took over his care. He had difficulty remembering that Jeanette had passed and often called for her and began asking to “go home” to either Tulsa or Porum.
In January of 2019, he decided he was too unsteady to walk and took to his bed. He became less communicative, searching to relate ideas, find words, etc. In early May, he lost the ability to swallow food or water and entered the hospital where his system slowly shut down.
Joe is preceded in death by his wife, Jeanette Coyan Maxfield, sister Yvonne (Maxfield) Wright, brother in law John Wright, parents Walter and Lora (Watson) Maxfield, great grand- mother Susan Katie (Bass) Watson, mother in law Clare (Manly) Stroup, and brothers in law Roy, Thomas, and Ronald Stroup. He is survived by his daughters Claire (Maxfield) Pusey and her husband Michael, Adele Maxfield, “adopted daughter” Judy Elton, grandson Stephen Maxfield Pusey and his wife Meredith, granddaughter Sean Meredith Pusey, sisters in law Letitia (Stroup) Keene and her husband Charles, and Irene (Stroup) Dallas, as well as many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
His was a life well lived and he will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved him. We rejoice he is finally “home” in Heaven; at peace and happy in Jesus…again living and working for Him.