Joseph Coleman Obituary, Death – We regret to inform you of the demise of this outstanding guy, Joseph Coleman, in fond memory. You are really missed and deeply loved. May the road incline toward you. May you always have the wind at your back. I hope the sun warms your face. May your farms receive rain. May God keep you in the palm of His hand till we next meet. Many prayers are being sent to the Coleman family. May he rest in peace and keep an eye out for you all.
One of our favorite buddies was Joe. I’m sending hugs and prayers to Janet and her family. However, he won numerous civic honors for his devotion to God’s people during his time as a priest. He was chosen as “Man of the Year” in 1962 by the East Greenwich Jr. Chamber of Commerce for “outstanding community service through loyal and unselfish efforts resulting in lasting contributions to community and nation.” He was awarded the Andrew Carnegie Medal for bravery on March 27, 1966 for saving two young parishioners from a troubled gunman.
The Newport City Council recognized Mr. Coleman for his community contributions in 1974. The Rhode Island House of Representatives honored him in 1978 for his bravery and altruism in saving over a dozen lives on the Newport Bridge. Mr. Coleman was frequently summoned to the Newport Bridge to stop people from plunging to their deaths out of desperation. In the example mentioned in the award, Mr. Coleman led a woman to safety by scaling the line 400 feet above Narragansett Bay. Father Joseph B. Coleman Day was established by the Jamestown Town Council in 1980 in honor of Father Coleman’s 25th year as a priest.
They also included the statement, “He made all of Jamestown his parish.” The American Legion of Rhode Island nominated Mr. Coleman along with Dr. William Litterick of the Central Baptist Church and Rev. Charles Cloughlin of St. Mathew’s Episcopal Church in 1982 for the Legion of Honor at the “Chapel of Four Chaplains” in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to the award citation, “The honor was in recognition of the service to all people, regardless of race or faith.” They claim that their membership “symbolizes for all Americans and for all time, the unity of this nations, founded upon the Fatherhood of one God.”
First responders were highly regarded and respected by Mr. Coleman. In the towns where he worked, he volunteered as a chaplain for local police and fire departments. Prior to 9/11, the people frequently did not completely comprehend or appreciate the role that the police and fire organizations played. Police officers and firefighters were occasionally stoned while going about their routine tasks during the social turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s. Police officers were frequently referred to as “pigs” at this time.
Mr. Coleman offered these men and women support through his speeches and presence at crime and fire sites. He was particularly interested in chaplain professionalism. Mr. Coleman served as the first vice president and one of the founding members of the International Conference of Police Chaplains in 1974. An organization was created to help chaplains find work and receive the training they need to meet the individual requirements of police officers. Today, this organization has over 2,000 members across 17 nations.
Mr. Coleman worked as a police chaplain in Providence, Newport, Middletown, and Jamestown as well as a fire chaplain in East Greenwich and Newport. He had a significant impact on both the male and female employees in these departments. He treated police work with the same empathy and sympathy that he showed to the hopeless individuals considering suicide on the Jamestown and Newport bridges. In two different instances, he was successful in convincing an officer “not to eat the gun.”
He was trusted by the officers from diverse departments. He was selected twice by the F.O.P. Lodge #3 in Providence to serve as their arbitrator in labor issues with the City of Providence. They were quite happy with his work. After leaving the active ministry in 1984, Mr. Coleman worked for a number of social organizations. They included the Grafton County Senior Citizens Council in New Hampshire, D.C.Y.F. in Rhode Island and New Hampshire, and Newport County Mental Health.
He declared, “The ritual of my ordination declared that I was a priest FOREVER in the order of Melchizedek. Never did I forget that. I made it. Day of Judgment will reveal. However, a seasoned social worker at DCYF did state, “Joe Coleman was the most compassionate C.P.I. [child protective investigator] I have ever worked with.” In addition to his devoted wife Sandra, Mr. Coleman is survived by three nephews and five nieces. His sisters, Margaret and Constance, as well as his brother, George, preceded him in death.