Sarasota - Joseph J. "Joe" Newman, 108, of Sarasota, FL passed away peacefully on Saturday, July 10, 2021.
Joe is survived by his fiancée, Anita Sampson, who has held a special place in his heart for over 16 years, and her daughter Joan Goldstein, whom he lovingly spoke of as his adopted stepdaughter. He is also survived by nieces Diane Wilson, Berkeley, CA; Diane German (Arthur), Chicago, IL; Lee Newman (John), Concord, MA; Lynn Newman (Vernon), Lake Zurich, IL; Barbara McGill, Fort Walton Beach, FL; and Jean Dewy, Pensacola, FL; and by nephews, Allan Kaswen (Julie), Las Vegas, NV; Bob Kaswen, La Selva Beach, CA; Paul Newman, Gulfport, MS; and Geoffrey Newman (Joy), Mishawaka, IN. He leaves behind many great nieces and nephews, cousins, adopted children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and many, many friends.
Joe was predeceased by his beloved wife Sophie and their cherished daughter, Rita Jo, his parents, Ben and Eva Newman, his sister, Reah Cohen, his brothers, Robert Newman and Leo Newman, his brother-in-law Abe Cohen, and his dear friend, Bella "Belle" Kravitz Goldstein.
The son of Russian immigrants, Joe was born on January 13, 1913, in Chicago, IL. He was the youngest of his parents' four children. The family later moved to South Bend, IN where Joe was raised. He married Sophie Kaswen in 1937. In 1938 their only child, Rita Jo, was born.
Shortly after graduating cum laude in 1936 from The University of Notre Dame with a bachelor's degree in accounting, Joe accepted a position with the newly formed Social Security Administration. Joe and Sophie spent time in Baltimore, New York, and Chicago where he trained to administer and advocate for the program before returning to South Bend. Following his work with the Social Security Administration, he worked as the comptroller at Super Auto Salvage in South Bend and later entered practice as a public accountant maintaining offices in both South Bend and Elkhart, IN.
Joe and Sophie's daughter, Rita Jo was injured at birth, resulting in profound developmental disabilities. Inspired by their daughter's special needs and influenced by his parents' revolutionary activism, they founded a local organization for the families of developmentally and intellectually challenged children. Joe was the organization's first president. He played a key role in successfully advocating for the passage of legislation funding the first special education services in the state. Their work grew to the state and national level becoming a part of what is now The Arc.
In 1950, Joe and Sophie co-founded The Logan School, with just $25 in the treasury. Now known as LOGAN, it has grown into a multi-million-dollar organization supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families. Joe's most treasured accomplishment was the establishment of a guardianship program at LOGAN. The Protective Services Division advocates for anyone with an intellectual or developmental disability without family support. From the earliest days of their community group to the work done at LOGAN today, South Bend has become a model for other such efforts across the country, in no small part because of Joe and Sophie's tireless efforts. While Rita Jo was too severely disabled to attend school, Joe was proud to say that "real change happened in the world, because she lived."
Joe moved to Sarasota around 1989. Though retired from work, he remained a fiery advocate for change. He took an active part in and led local discussion groups including Socrates Cafés and the Bradenton/Sarasota Nation Discussion Group. He encouraged others to put talk into action in the community. He was instrumental in the formation of Newtown Nation in Sarasota's Newtown neighborhood. Most recently, he founded and co-hosted a weekly Socrates Café at Aviva Senior Living.
In 2014 Joe ran to represent the 16th Congressional District of Florida in the US House of Representatives. He did not run to win but to shine a light on the questions and issues that he felt needed to be addressed to create a better life for ourselves and for future generations. His campaign, at the age of 101, garnered extensive media attention and led to ongoing coverage by interviewers inspired by Joe's passionate commitment to get involved, be engaged and be an active leader.
Joe leaves behind a rich legacy of leadership, critical thinking, and progressive activism. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living alumnus of the University of Notre Dame and one of the oldest living men in the United States.
Details will be announced for a celebration of Joe's life and legacy to be held at a later date. Memorial contributions may be made in Joe's honor to the LOGAN Protective Services Division by mail, at 2205 E. Jefferson Boulevard, South Bend, IN 46615, or online at www.logancenter.org/donate
Published by Herald Tribune from Jul. 13 to Jul. 15, 2021.