Joe Bly stepped into the Corner Kitchen for the first time probably 10 years ago. He introduced himself and explained that he had lived in Asheville since he was about three years old (since about 1930). I explained that I grew up about ½ mile from the restaurant to which he excitedly replied that he had been the postmaster at my post office when I was a kid.
He proceeded to become a good friend, in a matter of minutes, and over the last decade he told me many stories of his life and adventures. Joe was a proud Marine (he almost always wore his Eagle, Globe and Anchor pin) but in all the time I knew Joe, he was a lover, not a fighter.
He and I could be deep in conversation and he would stop and raise his head as if he had radar. A couple of ladies out to dinner, or a bridesmaids group dining at the family table were about to have a new friend. Joe would walk over, introduce himself, and set about making sure his new acquaintances were introduced to his world properly.
I have seen Joe hold forth on the the virtue of women and the high regard in which he held them. He has serenaded more than one group of ladies based on whatever they were in town for. Joe was a professional speaker, an expert showman and fearless in the face of the opposite sex. It was sight to behold.
He was a staunch supporter of our staff. If he liked someone, and he was a good judge of people, he would make sure he told me directly. Our staff has spent many of Joe’s birthdays holding parties for him or helping him with his landscaping at his home, on their own time and of their own volition. He evoked that kind of response in people.
Joe’s interests and passions extended to public school children and their education, excavating arrow heads and ancient rocks and trying to put some sense to how people lived hundreds of years ago, and what was going on in our staff’s lives. He would often tell me how proud he was of a server or a cook who was doing something to better themselves outside of work. He would keep up with staff that had left us to follow another path and keep me informed of how they were doing.
There is a quote about the Marines from Richard Harding Davis: “The Marines have landed and the situation is well in hand.” Joe always had the situation well in hand. I will miss him as an ambassador for our restaurant and, more importantly, as a friend.
Semper Fi, Joseph R. Bly.
~ by Kevin Westmoreland