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Richard Joel

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Richard Joel Obituary
Richard Joel

Richard Joel, loving husband and father, advertising educator and arts supporter, long-term resident of Tallahassee Florida and Highlands North Carolina, died of natural causes in his sleep on April 15, 2013, at his home at Westminster Oaks in Tallahassee. He was 96. For 85 years opera was his passion. It started at the age of 11 when he attended a Metropolitan Opera performance of Norma in Atlanta, and until the very end, he would tune in daily to satellite radio to listen to Met opera broadcasts.

Richard Joel was born December 31, 1916 in Athens, Georgia. He was a member of ODK and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BA degree from the University of Georgia and later earned a Master's degree from the University of Wisconsin. During WWII he served in the Air Force and after that he embarked on an academic career as a professor at Emory University where he founded and directed The Advertising Institute. He later taught at Florida State University, Florida Atlantic University, the University of Wisconsin, and finally the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where he chaired the advertising department in the College of Communications. He retired as Professor Emeritus of advertising and was named by UT one of the outstanding professors of the year. After that he returned to Tallahassee where he became a consistent supporter of music at The College of Music at FSU.

He also pursued his hobby as an amateur actor. He was a five-time winner of the best actor award at Tallahassee Little Theater. He worked actively with community theaters in all the cities where he served as a university professor. At Florida State he was president of Phi Beta Kappa, he was active on the Artists Series Committee, and he served on the board of the Tallahassee Little Theater.

While at UT he was on the board and served as public relations director of the Knoxville Opera. At the same time he served as national president of both the Alpha Delta Sigma advertising fraternity and the American Academy of Advertising. For three summers early in his career he worked with Clyde Bedell, internationally recognized advertising practitioner and author, whose text book he assisted in writing and editing.

In Knoxville he became a good friend of Robert Lyall, then general director of the Knoxville Opera Company and later director of the New Orleans Opera. For the next 25 years, Richard would travel annually to New York with him where he assisted in auditioning over 3,000 opera singers. They would also squeeze in as many Metropolitan Opera performances as their schedules would allow.

While at UT he and his wife Edith were attracted to the climate and natural beauty of Highlands, NC, where they began spending a portion of each year over 35 years ago. Together they became actively involved in local theater and art functions. Inspired by the exposure to the opera talent in New York and elsewhere, Richard Joel, at 75, created Bel Canto, a musical concert which brought some of the most talented voices in the country to Highlands. His wife Edith actively supported the initiative to become a fund raiser for the Bascom-Louise Gallery where she was serving as a docent. For fifteen years, until the age of 90, Richard relied on and guided a steering committee made up of some of Highlands' most civic-minded and loyal supporters of the arts. Bel Canto became a highly anticipated event which sold-out annually. As chairman he identified and attracted the talent, he helped create the program, he drew on his advertising experience and originated the publicity by writing the articles for local publications. In addition he handled the ticket sales while overseeing the steering committee for effective implementation of his vision. After he turned over the position as chairman, his successor observed that it took three people to accomplish all the tasks that Richard had done himself for fifteen years. When he attended the 20th annual recital as chairman emeritus, the fund raising had not only been used to purchase numerous significant pieces for the permanent collection at the Gallery, but had been broadened to include music and choral programs in local schools and the community child development center. Truly a lasting legacy.

In addition, during the years in Highlands he was very active in the local theater. He was well into his eighties when he played his last lead role -- in "The Sunshine Boys." And until his last summer in Highlands he continued his decades long volunteer work with Mountain Findings, a fund raising endeavor supporting numerous area charities and needs.

Richard Joel is survived by his daughter Madge Joel Ringbakk and her husband Chuck of Tavares, Florida; his son Richard Raymon Joel and his wife Elaine of Tavares, Florida; as well as two grandsons Rick Ringbakk and Jeremy Joel both of Los Angeles, California. He was married to his beloved Edith for 59 years until her death in 2001.

Richard Joel was not only a university professor. He was for so many a Life teacher. For his 90th birthday his daughter contacted a number of his former students, many by then also retired. She received dozens of responses telling in moving detail how much he had meant to them in and out of the classroom and how they had kept up over the decades. His passion for the arts and opera in particular has demonstrated that age is a state of mind. By following his bliss and engaging life fully, his Journey became a rich beacon for all who had the privilege of knowing him.

In six words:




An announcement about a musical memorial service at Westminster Oaks will be made later. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to The Salvation Army @ 1-800-725-2769 or Macular Degeneration Research @ 1-800-437-2423

Published in Tallahassee Democrat on Apr. 19, 2013
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