David L. Joy

By Paul J. Casebolt

David L. Joy, of Paden City, West Virginia, was born into this present world July 6, 1953. After nearly 40 years, the spirit left his earthly tabernacle on April 12, 1993. In biblical history, several important events were circumscribed by a 40-year span. Our Savior lived upon this earth only 30-odd years, yet he finished a work which has impacted our lives for time and for eternity On. 17:1-4).

In contemporary times, with regard to both secular and church history, scarcely would you find a life such as the life of David Joy, which has had such an influence for good in such a short time. And that is because the life of David Joy was patterned after the life of Christ.

A few months after David was born in 1953, a daughter was born to Paul and Virginia Casebolt at Fairmont, West Virginia. In the 1960s, Patty Jo and David met in Paden City, were married, and had three children Jeremy, Jennifer, and Micah. This family personified the Bible relation-ship of husband and wife, parents and children.

In October of 1984, after an unexpected viral illness, David received a heart transplant at the age of 31. For the next eight and one-half years, David would experience countless hospital visits of varied lengths, tests, tubes, biopsies, catherizatons, and the daily intake, reaction, and interaction of several post-transplant drugs. And besides all of the physical and mental stress which would accompany such traumatic experiences and intrusions, there was the continual burden of medical bills above and beyond what his insurance would pay. And the continual avalanche of even the insurance-related bills and forms would have been sufficient to drive weaker individuals to despair, if not insanity. But David and his family were not weak.

If this report ended here, the stranger would conclude that the last eight years of David’s life were ones of total misery both for himself, his family, and all of those around him. But such was not the case. David made certain of that, and did so to the very end.

David and I enjoyed a relationship which went far beyond that of father-in-law/son-in-law, and I think that I can objectively assess his situation, his life, and some of his emotions. I was with David before, during, and after his first transplant. I say first, for he had been on the list for a second transplant which never materialized.

During those weeks in the fall of 1984, Daivd’s faith, hope, courage, and patience amazed me, humbled me, and sometimes shamed me. As we talked in the late-night hours of life, death, and eternity, his vital signs would stabilize as I watched the monitors above his bed. The nurses in ICU were watching the monitors at their station, and marveled at David’s positive attitude. For eight and one-half years, when folks asked David how he felt; his answer was, “Pretty good.”

Oh, David had his moments, even hours and days of anxiety, apprehension, and frightenings without and fears within (cf. 2 Cor. 7:5), the extent of which none of us will ever know. But he kept much of this to himself lest he burden his family and friends.

Time and time again, David went back to the hospital not knowing if he would return to his earthly home, family, and friends. But each time, the first thing he packed for his trip to Pittsburgh was his briefcase containing his Bible and note pads. He would do more studying and prepare to do more preaching as soon as he was released from the hospital. Even around the house, his books and typewriter would be on the kitchen table, or he would have some religious tract or publication in his hand. And for some eight years, David emerged from these hospital trips to live and to preach those truths which he had gleaned from God’s word while virtually balanced on the edge of eternity. And those of us who could not see the world beyond, or even our present world from his perspective, hungered, thirsted, and were filled by his teaching and preaching of “the words of this life” (Acts 5:20).

David decided from the beginning of his affliction that there was going to be some quality to what life he had left on this earth. He had time for his family, the church, and his neighbors, sorting out his priorities in what appeared to be a most admirable and flawless way.

David taught in the elementary schools of Wetzel County, and his students, their parents, and his fellow-teachers attest to his excellency as a teacher. But his first love was teaching and preaching the word of God. Though not fully supported by the church, he preached regularly for two congregationsFly and Mellott Ridge, Ohio (just across the Ohio River), for nine and seven years respectively. David conducted gospel meetings during summer vacations and even during school terms, taught special Bible classes, wrote articles for bulletins and newspapers, preached on the radio, and carried on extensive correspondence with advocates of false doctrine, both those in and out of the church. David was one of several “part-time” preachers in this area who were partially supported by the church, but who “fully preached the gospel of Christ” around their contemporary Jerusalems and Illyricums of the mid and upper-Ohio Valley (Rom. 15:19).

Some folks, even some of David’s well-meaning friends, thought he should give up either his school teaching or preaching (or both), and “take care of himself.” The simple truth is, he couldn’t give up either. And he was “taking care of himself”  his soul which would return to God, and his family and friends whom he would leave behind. His school teaching provided insurance to pay the bulk of his medical bills, and his preaching provided insurance for heaven. And he paid the premiums on that heavenly insurance not only for himself, but for all who knew him and heard him preach.

David’s last sermon was “The Returning Christ,” based on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, preached at Cedar Avenue in Moundsville on March 28. Ironically (for lack of a better term), I had preached David’s outline in Manila as a tribute to him, only 12 hours before David preached it in Moundsville. Neither of us knew the other was going to preach that particular sermon, and I did not even know if David were still among the living, but that sermon was a favorite of both his and mine. David was insistent that I complete my preaching trip to the Philippines in spite of his weakened and tenuous condition, and he lived to see me come home just a few days before he entered the hospital for the last time.

From his hospital bed, only hours before his death, David was discussing the Book of Romans with Paul Rockwell, who had gone to visit him in Pittsburgh. But David’s preaching did not stop at Moundsville, nor did his teaching cease with his bedside dissertation on Romans.

Before entering the hospital, David had agreed to speak one night in a meeting at Belleville, West Virginia. But knowing his weakened condition, he scheduled the appointment with the stipulation that if he could not go, either his son Jeremy or I would honor his commitment. His subject  “The Returning Christ.” It fell my lot, privilege, and honor to preach that sermon to a full house at Belleville the day after David’s funeral. As was said of Abel, “he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb. 11:4). And by his life and through others whom he has influenced, David Joy will speak for generations to come, or until “The Returning Christ” appears in the clouds of heaven.

I have always tried to be objective in my assessment of David’s life and work, because our relationship went beyond that of any fleshly ties. But just in case some stranger thinks that this brief epitaph of a brief but full life is tempered only by the emotions of a doting father-in-law, let me tell you about the funeral itself.

A funeral service is supposed to be a memorial of the deceased’s life, and I have never seen a more fitting memorial than the one which dominated the better part of three days in Paden City. David’s wife, his children, his en-tire family and host of friends personified and exemplified his teaching, example, and influence.

Public schools were dismissed at noon on the day of the funeral, and unless my knowledge or memory fail me, this has never happened before in my 30-year sojourn in this area. On Wednesday night alone, those who came to pay their respects formed a line three and four deep. The line curled around inside the funeral home chapel, out the door, across the street by the funeral home, and into the next block. Elderly people and parents with small children stood in line for as long as two hours in chilly temperatures, and felt honored to do so. Some saw the long line or could not find a parking place and passed on.

Flowers, an open-Bible floral arrangement, a special gift from fellow-teachers (prepared before news of his death)  these and other tokens of appreciation accompanied David’s memorial service. As far as I know, there were no cameras to record any of these events, and in a way I am glad, lest it somehow detract from the spontaneous and sincere expressions of sympathy for the family and respect for David.

Am I not afraid that these literary bouquets will detract from David’s life, from his reward? Not in the least. David would not have sanctioned or allowed such tribute while he was in the flesh, and would have been embarrassed by any such attempt. But these things have already been credited to his eternal record, and there are many more like words and deeds which shall not be made manifest until the time of judgment (1 Tim. 5:25).

David favored congregational singing for his funeral, and that was ably conducted by Bob McKinney in the church building at Paden City, which was filled to capacity with some standing along the walls. Vernon Teagarden, of Morgantown (whose family had recently experienced a similar loss), read Ephesians 5:22-6:9 and offered the prayer. Paul Rockwell had the unenviable and difficult task of delivering the funeral sermon. Not only did Paul do his part well, but did it better than anyone else could have done it.

But all of this outward manifestation of tribute was over-shadowed by the pervading memories of a life which will influence other souls for time and eternity. And the life and works of David L. Joy will be overshadowed by “The Re-turning Christ” as he brings with him “them also which sleep in Jesus” (1 Thess. 4:14). We have reason to believe “by the word of the Lord” (v. 15), that David will be in that number.

And David would want me to ask, “Do you have that hope, dear reader?”

During the past few years, I tried to communicate to David in poetry some of my own feelings, as well as the feelings of others who were unable to put their feelings into words. One of those poems, a rather lengthy one of 13 stanzas, was read by brother Rockwell at the conclusion of his remarks. The poem was written in 1988, but Paul and others thought that it summarized the general sentiment which fills the hearts and memories of so many people, for David’s life affected and belonged to many people. I trust that the reader will appreciate the last stanza of that poem, which summarizes not only the poem itself, but the life of David Joy.

“Our Savior lived the perfect life in less than half of our allotted span

And no one else will match this deed  not you, not I, not any mortal man;

But we envision David’s life as it now blends and merges with our own,

A life as nearly like our Lord’s as few terrestrial beings we have known.”

Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 12, p. 10-12
June 17, 1993