Smokey Joe Waitsman, 47, of Pensacola, FL passed away Friday, November 30, 2012.
Joe was born April 9, 1965 in Coral Gables, FL and later spent his school years in St. Louis, MO before moving to Pensacola in 1987. The loss of his only child in 1989 was a defining moment in his life and he chose to move to Pensacola Beach for the solitude and serenity of the Gulf. He worked for many years in restaurants including McGuire's, Sunray Taco Shop and Peg Leg Pete's. After he moved to Pensacola Beach he spent his spare time doing bone carvings of small tikis which he peddled on the beach. After being displaced by hurricane Ivan in 2004, Joe moved to town and started carving in earnest and began discovering and developing his true talent. From that time forward, he made a commitment to himself that he was going to dedicate himself to "doing his art" no matter how much of a starving artist he had to be...and he stuck to his guns...and he did starve for a while. However, it wasn't long before he was recognized for the eye he had for detail in his three dimensional bone carvings, for his creativity and for the lore that was the motivation for many of his best creations. He always went back to his roots and sold his pieces out on the beach, but he began expanding his customer base via art shows. Most recently, he was a regular and popular vendor at Palafox Market where he had a terrific following, but he also was invited to show in the GGAF Heritage show in 2011 & 2012 winning awards of excellence both years. He and his Mom camped out and showed together at the Havana Bead & Jewelry show twice a year since 2008 where he also won awards. In January of 2012 in an invitational exhibition, he and his Mom collaborated in a show titled "Like Mother, Like Son" which was lauded by all who saw it.
One of Joe's favorite things to do was to attend music festivals with his 'gang' of friends who felt the same way. The annual trip to Bonaroo was a staple, but he went to as many music festivals as he could squeeze into his schedule. Additionally, there was never a quiet moment at his house as he had a vast collection of CD's that blared through the house and studio pretty much non stop. No doubt he and Jerry Garcia have had a toke together by now.
All who knew him understood the nature of Joe's 'free spirit'. He walked his own path, followed his own credo and everyone knew him for his upbeat and loving personality… what you saw was what you got with Smokey. He had many, many friends, true friends, not just acquaintances, who loved him and were there for him unconditionally…as he was for them. Joe combined many faiths and drew inspiration from all of their interconnectedness and followed a spiritual path with strong belief in honoring the earth and the natural world and had a special love for and bond to his animals and all those that roamed free.
Joe was preceded in death by his precious daughter, Jazzy; his loving Grandma, Mary and his step-sister, Heather Monson as well as Roach, his bullwawa who was as well known around town as Joe.
He is survived by his mother and step-father, Kathi Gordon and Mark Cumpston; his step-grandparents, Marge and Lou Cumpston; his aunts, Eileen (Tom) Steinberg and Pat Delany; his beloved cousins, Denise (Scott) Mack, Lisa (Gary) Pisano, Greg (Caren) Boyd and Melissa (Mark) Messina; nephews, Colton Sawyer, Stephen and Michael Pisano, Garrett Mack and his adorable nieces, Shayna Sawyer and Hannah Gordon-Livingston who visited their "Uncle Joey" every summer on the beach. Joe is also survived by his constant companions and 'his family' of dogs: Tiki, Grisley and the little girls, Ginger and Maryann.
To say that he will be missed is such an understatement. I'd rather talk about how he will be remembered…for his laughter, his great sense of humor, his kindness and for how he inspired so many people's lives. Rest in peace my sweet, sweet boy, rock your little girl in your arms, give Grandma a kiss for me and know that my heart is shattered by your loss, but buoyed by the love, respect, creativity and closeness that we shared.
As his friend, Jesse so poetically put it, "Pensacola has lost a legend, the Gulf Coast has lost an icon. Turtle Island has lost a brother and the cosmos has lost a friend. We will always remember Smokey and sing his praises in song and dance for the generations to come. I say, do not mourn his physical death, but rejoice in his continued spiritual journey as he is blazing through time and space and colors and sound."
Visitation will be held 5:00pm until the Funeral Service to begin at 6:30pm Thursday, December 6, 2012 at Harper-Morris Memorial Chapel.
A surfer's memorial paddle out will take place at Paradise Bar & Grill on Pensacola Beach Saturday, December 8, 2012. Please arrive early as the paddle out to scatter his ashes will begin promptly at 4:00pm…land and sea accommodations are available for all. A celebration of his life will follow with laughter, dancing and music beginning at 6:00pm. Parking is extremely limited, so please arrive by bike or by car pool.
In lieu of flowers, Joe would be honored by donations to the Humane Society of Pensacola, 5 N Q St., Pensacola, FL 32505.
Special thanks are offered to his close friends who have offered their love and support and have helped us make arrangements that would honor Smokey's wishes.
Express your condolences in our guestbook at pnj.com/obits
HARPER-MORRIS MEMORIAL CHAPEL
2276 AIRPORT BLVD. PENSACOLA, FL 32504
Published in Pensacola News Journal from Dec. 5 to Dec. 7, 2012