As we continue to try to re-learn life without our Joe, spammers have found our site. As a result, I had to turn off the ability to add yourself as an author. If you would like to post a memory of Joe or anything you like, please leave a comment or get in touch with one of us and we will give you a login or post it for you… whichever you prefer. We intend this site as a place for everyone who loves Joe to express their grief and find a little community support. I’m very sorry that the culture of the internet makes it necessary to make things less open for you. Please don’t be put off and we still hope you will post when moved.
Updates from February, 2012 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts
Jay Rancourt is discussing. Toggle Comments
Our friends, David and Emilie, bought 12 copies of Little Gorilla, and asked me to sign them. They have been sent to Kasiisi School in western Uganda. David and Emilie’s daughter, Caroline, one of Joe’s favorite classmates in elementary school here in Madison, NH, works at Kasiisi.
The need for education in Uganda is great. From the Kasiisi Project website, “Uganda has been racked by war and internal strife since independence in 1962. Life expectancy is 45 years. Annual per capita income is about $380 USD. Primary school is free, but a good secondary school education costs $400-800+ per student per year. This is far beyond the means of the subsistence farmers and plantation workers who make up some 75% of the populace. Most girls do not complete primary school. Just 12% of students go on to secondary school. Only education can fuel urgently needed economic growth.” When the school administrators discovered that many of the students were walking long distances to the school on empty stomachs, they realized that the children would not be able to learn without a nutritious meal each day- for many children, the only meal they would consistently receive in a day. Thus began the Porridge Project.
Please, in Joe’s memory, consider the idea of helping with the important work being done at Kasiisi to further education, and therefore economic opportunity, and also health in this rural corner of Uganda. Joe, so lucky to receive a great American education, would love this project so dear to the heart of his old friend, Caroline.
Caroline reading to nursery school kids.
Several people who couldn’t be there on Saturday have asked me to reconstruct what I said. Because I spoke spontaneously, I don’t really know what I said. I do remember saying that I was terrified but that I knew the room was filled with people who love Joe and love our family, and that gave me great courage. I also have to say that I felt like Joe was standing right behind me.
I remember thanking everyone for being there – from both near and far. We are grateful too for all the Facebook messages (thank God for technology), emails, cards, calls, casseroles, flowers, prayers and loving concern – each and every one has brought us comfort.
A few days ago, my friend Nancy said that only I could tell the “Mom Stories”, so here is my mom story.
Our Joe was special. I know every parent believes that.
But we knew it from the moment we clapped eyes on him in the examining room, when he was in too much of a hurry to make it to the delivery room. We had that moment of checking fingers and toes and it was all wrong and very scary. Joe was born with severe club feet and a congenital lack of muscle nerve in his arms and shoulders. And he was tiny – barely over 5 pounds. Within a few hours a neurosurgeon told me he might have massive brain damage as well. Boy, was he wrong.
A year of medical interventions, physical and occupational therapy and surgery began. Luckily I discovered “Indian baby massage” so I learned to lay him naked on a towel and rub increasing range of motion into him with olive oil and lots of love. I did it nearly every day. For three months Joe and I traveled to Portland, Maine twice a week so that his orthopedic doctor could crank his feet down into a semi-normal position and cast them. Then another five months of once-a-week visits for the same thing. I should mention that Joe’s great grandfather, Robert Bayley Osgood, was considered one of the founders of orthopedic surgical practice at Harvard and Mass General Hospital. My orthopod at Maine Medical was afraid to operate on the grandson of so eminent a man in his field, so he sent us to his mentor at Boston City Hospital who put seven pounds of cast on a fourteen pound baby while listening to a Red Sox game on the radio. I left in tears and never went back. It really was a no-brainer – we went to my grandfather’s hospital, MGH, where Michael Ehrlich performed seven hours of surgery, and Joe endured four more months of casts to his hips. It took me all of that stressful year, the hardest of my life, to realize that Joe was having a lovely time. After all he didn’t know anything different than what he had.
Through it all, Joe had an alert focus in so small a baby, and a kind of curious beatitude. His sunny disposition never wavered in spite of considerable physical distress. We nicknamed him “Buddha Boy” – partly because the huge casts on his legs made it so he could sit up very early, and also he was nearly always placidly smiling out at the world with such happy wonder. He rarely cried except when the doctors were poking and prodding him.
The sad thing was Joe got an ill-fitting body. It never functioned very well, and it became clear that it never would, despite all our collective efforts. His physical problems were compounded by the weight he slowly put on through childhood. We worried that when he got to school, he might be teased, but he never was. Everyone loved our little gorilla.
The hard thing was, at 8 or 9, he could no longer keep up with his buddies and do the active sports they all wanted to do. I know it hurt him, but somehow, and amazingly quickly, he rose above the hurt and just carried on, keeping his sunny, friendly nature and developing his curious, and intelligent mind. Right from the beginning Joe excelled in school. His teachers complained that he never seemed to be listening in class – too busy passing notes and whispering to his classmates. But when they would call him on it, he would repeat back verbatim everything they had said for the past five minutes. It seemed like he just absorbed knowledge through his pores, with practically no effort. I never saw him do a lick of homework, yet he was in all the advanced classes at Kennett. He breezed through Northfield Mt. Hermon, and only began to apply himself when he got to Reed College.
More than his intellectual curiosity, his voracious reading and his love of all kinds of music, Joe cared about friends – making them, keeping them, having fun with them and taking care of them. As Lichen says on littlegorilla.net, he collected people. But he was discriminating too. Even as a little boy at elementary school, he had zero tolerance for dishonesty, injustice, bullying, and prejudice. And he grew up to be remarkably fair minded. He never cared one whit for material things – he could fit all his worldly goods in the back seat of his Volvo.
I think that the very best thing we all can do in Joe’s memory is to try to be a little more like he was. Smile more, contact the people we love and tell them how much we care, pass it forward, laugh more, hug everyone heart-to-heart, and keep our hearts as open as he did.
Let’s wish him godspeed on his new journey.
I recited this poem at my mother’s funeral in 2005, because it was so true to her spirit. All were welcome in her home and at her side. and isn’t it also so true of our Joe? Didn’t he meet us all at the door, laughing?
This being human is a guesthouse.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of all its furniture.
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi
Kathy Stewart and Niamh are discussing. Toggle Comments
Today and tomorrow, Friday and Saturday, the big Dartmouth College flag on the campus green will fly at half-mast for our son, Joe. A plaque will be placed at the foot of the pole. We are so proud of him, and mourn for the professional promise that is lost.
The Truly Great
…Near the snow, near the sun,
in the highest field,
see how these names are fated
by the waving grass, and streamers of white cloud,
and whispers of wind in the listening sky
the names of those who in this life
fought for life,
who wore at their heart the fire’s center.
Born of the sun, they traveled
a short way towards the sun
and left the vivid air
signed with their honor.
~ Stephen Spender
We have many friends who have beds. Just let us know and we’ll hook you up.
Godspeed to all you Travelers,
Robbin, Jay, Joe, Lichen, David, baby Lotte (in the photo, she is in Lichen’s belly), and Jay’s sister, Margy in blue on left.
Please call Diane Johnson at 447-5117 to coordinate food for Joe’s service. She, sweet thing, is the point person.
Love to all of you, our dear friends.
At times like this you know it’s all about Love.
We would like to invite everyone who would like to visit us at our house in Madison all day tomorrow, 23 January 2011. We are all grieving and need to be together. Come and cry with us. Sit quietly in this place Joe grew up. Tell stories about our beloved Joe. If you need directions, please leave a comment below and I will email them to you.
kate willis and Peggy Johnson are discussing. Toggle Comments
To: Members of the Department of Psychiatry
I am saddened to inform you of the unexpected and tragic death yesterday of Joseph F. Rancourt, who served as Project Coordinator of an NIH funded research project within the Psychopharmacology Research Group (PRG) in the Department of Psychiatry. Joe died after a brief illness. He had worked in
the Department since 2007. His original position was as a Research Assistant, based primarily at the Addiction Research Center on Buck Road. He was promoted one year ago to Project Coordinator for the NIH-funded study entitled: “Cannabis and Schizophrenia: Self-Medication and Agonist Treatment?”. In this role, based at DHMC, Joe was primarily responsible for patient recruitment, study implementation and project management. His extraordinary work on this project is reflected in the data already gathered; his work has laid the foundation for completion of the main phase of the study.
Joe was from Madison, New Hampshire. He was a graduate of the Northfield Mount Herman School, in Gill, Massachusetts, and received a BA in Psychology from Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, in 2005. During college, he studied cognitive and biological psychology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. His senior thesis was related to taste perception. Joe enjoyed literature, snowshoeing and traveling, as well as microbeers, good food and his friends. He is survived by his parents, Robbin and Jay
Rancourt, and by his sister, Lichen.
All who knew Joe are stunned and devastated by the death of someone so young, so cheerful and so full of promise.
Joseph Frederic Rancourt was born in 1981 and raised in Madison, NH. He attended Madison Elementary, Kennett HS, Northfield-Mt. Hermon School, and Reed College in Portland, OR. After college, he returned to NH to live and work in Hanover. He worked as a research coordinator at Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital. He died suddenly, of natural causes, at his home in Etna on Wednesday, January 19th, 2011. If you are young and get sick with flu or a bad cold, don’t think you are invincible, call for help. If Joe had, he might still be with us.
Joe was a kind and gentle soul, smart as a whip, with a wonderful sense of humor, beloved by everyone who knew him. He loved to travel, read, fish, snow machine with his dad, kayak with his mom, cook for his friends, hang out with his family, and he loved music. He will be sorely missed.
He is survived by his mother and father, Jay and Robbin Rancourt of Madison, sister Lichen Rancourt, brother-in-law David Smolen, niece Lotte Smolen of Manchester, NH, and his grandparents Joseph and Jean Rancourt of North Conway, NH.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to The Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation, 20 Horseneck Lane, 2nd Floor, Greenwich, CT 06830 (This foundation was started by the family of Joe’s dear friend in high school, Tucker Davis, who succumbed last year to fibrolamellar cancer), or to Cook Memorial Library, 93 Main St., Tamworth, NH 03886.
We are building a memorial website for Joe, please send your thoughts, stories, and pictures to http://littlegorilla.net.
There will be a memorial celebration on Saturday, January 29th, 1 p.m. on at Tin Mountain Conservation Center, in Albany, NH. Please bring potluck, both food and drink. Please call Diane Johnson at 447-5117 to coordinate food for Joe’s service. She, sweet thing, is the point person.
If you need a place to stay, there are many beds waiting at friends’ houses. Just email me, email@example.com. Really, no trouble.
We’ll hook you up.
Or our beloved friends at the Darby Field Inn will take care of you and they are right next door to Tin Mountain. There’s the Gilman Tavern in Tamworth a half hour away, and Mt Washington Valley is loaded with places to stay that are within 15 minutes’ drive.