Joseph Marion Ivey
On June 26, 2023, Joe M. Ivey, of Visalia, California, passed away peacefully at home with his beloved wife, Norma, at his side. He was 87 years young. Joe was born on January 16, 1936, in Hawthorne, California. He was the youngest and only boy of three children to parents Ben and Myrhl Ivey. Desiring to raise the family in a smaller town, the family moved to Exeter and built a home. The family helped start Lindcove Community Church that originally met in their home. Joe’s mom played the piano. Joe was saved at the age of 11, during Sunday School. Mrs. Witt, the pastor’s wife, was teaching a flannel graph on Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray ....” On that morning, five boys raised their hands to accept Jesus into their hearts.
In 1953, Joe graduated from Exeter High School. He played the coronet in the band and sang in the A capella Choir. Joe was active in Youth For Christ and, as it happened, so was Norma. Routinely, he would pick up a carload of friends and take them to the Bible club. In those days, kids carried their Bibles to school, and he caught a glimpse of a cute Bible-carrying freshman, Norma. She signed Joe’s senior yearbook writing “May the Lord bless and guide as you go your way. It has been swell knowing you.” After graduation, Joe courted Norma for the next three years while she finished school. He worked as the parts manager for Kroeker’s Chevrolet in Exeter – every day for his lunch break, he would get burgers and meet Norma in front of the high school.
At Calvary Community Church in Exeter, on June 3, 1956 following the morning service, Joe and Norma were married. Their young pastor, Rev. Thornton Weymouth officiated the service – this was his very first wedding ceremony. They honeymooned at Hume Lake and Norma got homesick. Once back home in their little rental house, there was a full-blown shivaree going on. Friends surrounded their home, firing guns into the air, there was noise, merrymaking and chaos. Joe and Norma locked themselves in the bathroom, but friends took the door off its hinges – threatened to throw Joe in the canal and coerced Joe into pushing Norma in a wheelbarrow up and down the Main Street of Exeter. They returned home to find all the labels removed from their canned goods. So it was mystery meals for the foreseeable future.
In 2006, on their 50th anniversary, they renewed their vows. This time around, they had “the works.” Grandson Jacob, walked Norma down the aisle, granddaughters Allison and Emily were candlelighters, daughters Crystal and Renee played the organ and piano, four pastors, music, cake, food, family and friends! Rev. Weymouth, once again officiated, even though he got it right the first time! Joe and Norma were dedicated sweethearts through 67 years of marriage.
Joe and Norma have two daughters; Crystal arrived in 1958 and Renee in 1959. In 1960, the family moved to Visalia, added a dog and their first brand new car, a Volkswagen bug. Joe spent many hours tinkering in his garage – maintaining his VW bug, working on projects, and fixing things. Visalia has been home for more than 60 years.
Whatever Joe did, he was all in! Always looking to improve, he set a goal to work with United Parcel Service. UPS was expanding and had plans to open a center in Visalia. He began driving to Fresno every Friday to express an interest in any job openings. He pestered them until the new center was open and he was the only local person to be hired. Joe worked at UPS for 33 years. He had the same route “up the hill” to Three Rivers and Sequoia National Park for his last 18 years. He fully enjoyed what he did and those he met during his day. Joe lived his faith while working and earned the nickname “Deacon Joe.” When someone needed encouragement, Deacon Joe was the go-to man. He made many friends at UPS and along his route, and would often share his testimony. Joe received numerous safe driving awards and other recognitions from UPS over the years – one of his favorites was a grandfather clock presented to him at retirement.
Joe faithfully attended church, studied God’s Word and enjoyed ministering through music and service his entire life. From Lindcove Community church in his childhood home to Calvary Community Church of Exeter, Faith Baptist Church of Strathmore, Faith Baptist Church of Visalia, Prosperity Avenue Baptist Church of Tulare, and Gateway Church of Visalia. Some of his fondest memories were that of working alongside Pastor Clifford Roach to plant a new church in Visalia. Several families, led by Pastor Roach, met in the YMCA building. On Sunday mornings, Joe and Pastor would carry signs out to the street to invite folks in. To save rent, the evening and midweek services were held in the Ivey’s home. The church was formed with 25 charter members. The church grew and they built a chapel on Walnut Avenue. Saturdays were for knocking on doors and inviting folks; then Sunday morning, three buses would circle town to pick up kids for Sunday School. More growth and a larger sanctuary was built. Pastor Roach went on to plant another church and Pastor Roger Carey accepted the position. AWANA thrived, there were choirs and musicals, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ was being proclaimed. Joe and Norma ministered there for more than 30 years.
In more recent times, Joe worked closely together with Pastor Floyd Westbrook and Visalia Christian Ministries. Pastor Westbrook called Joe “his Barnabas,” because he encouraged so many people. For 25 years, “Bible and Breakfast” met every Wednesday morning to sing, study the Word and fellowship. They also made numerous bus trips with the group. Another favorite for Joe was gatherings in the Ashford’s back yard at “The Mission,” with Pastor Kurt Salierno preaching the Word. Joe enjoyed directing the choirs, singing solos and eventually recorded a CD of his favorite songs.
Joe loved to travel! As a young family they camped in the mountains – they would pack the VW bug with a tent, a high chair, two babies, and more – their campsite neighbors would watch in amazement as Joe kept bringing more “stuff” out of that little bug. Thereafter, they upgraded. Now they would hitch the trailer to the station wagon, pack up the girls, and along with Granny Ivey and Daisy (the dog) in tow, they would head to the Sequoias, Death Valley, or the beach. They would scoot around the campground on motorcycles and find remote fishing spots. On one particular ride in Hume Lake, Joe had Crystal and Renee with him on the motorcycle, and Norma had Granny behind her on the motorcycle. They were all headed up a steep mountain road when Granny slid off the back of the motorcycle and landed “splat” in the dirt. In later years, Joe and Norma expanded their traveling to Florida, Hawaii, Mexico, Alaska, the Caribbean and cruises. Joe’s most treasured memories were trips taken with the grandkids – lots of noise, laughter and silliness – such fun times! Eventually they bought a condo in Maui and actually considered living there part time. Instead, they visited every year for 20-plus years. Travel was a special part of their lives. Joe and Norma gained a lifetime of memories during those years.
In 2016 while vacationing in Maui, Joe suffered an aneurysm behind his right knee and was air lifted to Honolulu. He spent seven weeks in the hospital and had 13 surgeries – Joe ultimately lost his right leg at the hip. With Norma by his side, they traveled by air ambulance from Hawaii back home to California. After three months in a rehab facility, Joe was finally home. He mastered “driving” his wheelchair and learned to walk with a computerized prosthetic leg. Throughout this difficult time in his life, he leaned not on his own understanding, but trusted in God to keep pushing forward. Because of the many prayers and support, Joe was able to meet challenges with a smile and continue on with a song in his heart. And his sweetheart, Norma, never – not even one single day – left his side. From the moment he was air lifted in Maui until the day he went home to be with our Lord, Norma was sitting by his side, holding his hand.
Finally, Joe’s lifelong desire was for all of his family and friends to join him in Heaven someday. He wanted to know that you would be coming through those pearly gates! He prayed faithfully for each and every one of you to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour – just as he did when he was 11 years old. Isaiah 53
Joe is survived by his loving wife, Norma; two daughters, Crystal West (Dwain) and Renee Thornberry (Rick); three grandchildren, Jacob Donald (Ana), Allison Wiesemann (Jason), Emily Manuele (Nick); four great grandchildren, Bailey Donald, Benjamin Wiesemann, Kara Wiesemann, Aubrey Manuele; niece, Cathy Ballard (Jerry); nephew, Ken Burden; Rosadee Salinas (Bailey’s mom); and countless friends and lives Joe has touched throughout his life.
Joe was predeceased by parents, Ben and Myrhl Ivey, sisters, Irene Hughey, Della Burden, and great granddaughter, Olivia Joanne Manuele. The family invites you to services honoring Joe at the Smith Family Chapel in Exeter. Viewing on July 19, 2023 1:30-4:30pm. Funeral service on July 20, 2023 1:00pm with graveside immediately following at Exeter District Cemetery. Arrangements entrusted to Smith Family Chapel, 505 E. Pine St., Exeter, CA (559) 592-9119 www.smithfamilychapel.com
In remembrance of Joe’s life, the family asks that any charitable donations be made to: Kurt Salierno with My Father’s House, 1525 E. Noble Ave., #298, Visalia, CA 93292 www.myfathershousevisalia.com