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Joel's heart was tired and weak, and he could not stay with his family any longer. He is now healthy; probably playing frisbee with his dad and getting to know his baby brother he had never met. Joel was born in Winona, Minnesota on July 6 with a diagnosis of Down Syndrome and a heart defect. Between the ages of 10 and 18 he had three open-heart surgeries. Joel loved to camp with his family, and at six weeks old he encountered his first camping experience. His family moved to Stillwater, Minnesota when Joel was two. He started attending a day activity center at age three and at age five, attended a classroom at Washington Elementary School in conjunction with Northeast Metro 916. Joel graduated from a Roseville campus of Northeast Metro 916 in 1989. He began attending ESR (now Rise), a day habilitation program in Stillwater. In February 1990, he began working as a clerical worker at Washington County Government Center. Joel loved his job and did not like to miss a day of work. He greeted his coworkers each day, or they greeted him. He loved silly socks which he wore each day. In fact, his coworkers would buy him socks, until they were told "no more'. Thank you all at the government center for making Joel feel so welcome and for bringing him so much joy over the 30+ years he worked there. Joel's family is forever grateful to Pam Stockwell, his Job Coach, who became a key person in Joel's life. Joel attended Camp Friendship starting at age 8 for many years. He loved dancing and bowling and belonged to a special needs bowling league for over 25 years. Joel moved into a home operated by Northeast Residence in Maplewood when he was age 26. He had three roommates who became a second family, and over the years had wonderful, caring staff. Thank you to the current team of Shirley, Stella, Linda, and Martin. Joel's family is so grateful for them. He loved his home and visited his family often, especially for holidays. Joel's true delight was travel. He has been to Disney World, Mexico, Disneyland, Hawaii, Fiji and the Tonga islands, and made trips to Colorado, Nevada, Branson, Missouri, and Atlanta. Joel's favorite outing was seeing movies. His first favorite was "The Wizard of Oz", followed by "ET", "Harry Potter" movies, and "Star Wars". On TV, he loved the character Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show". He enjoyed music: listening at a young age to "Candy Man" by Sammy Davis, later "Over the Rainbow", and "Don't Worry, Be Happy". Joel's advice to people was always "Be Happy". Joel is preceded in death by his father, Clarence "Turk", his baby brother Craig, and brother-in-law Dick Ulrich. He is survived by his mother Joan, sister Jackie Ulrich, brother Jon (Jeff Fisher), nieces Jess Peterson (Travis), Tammie Hefty (Jeff), and beloved great-niece, Evie Jo Hefty. We are so grateful for all the caring, loving people in Joel's life who helped him become a happy, content person. They were key in his becoming an active member of his community. Don't worry. Be happy, Joel.
Joel's Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021 with visitation one hour prior at Simonet Funeral Home, 6429 N Osgood Ave. Stillwater, MN. The family asks that attendees wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Memorials preferred to Northeast Residence (www.nerinc.org) or Rise Inc. (www.rise.org)