Friday, November 16, 2018

Remembering Joe Budne

Joe died September 29 at the age of 94.

He and I became friends shortly after they moved to the Seattle area about 20 years ago.  Before retiring he was a photographer and, especially, an art director for major advert. agencies in New York.  

As a young man, Joe was an artilleryman with Patton's 5th army during their march across the low countries and across Germany.  He came back with a serious hearing loss that it took years to convince the VA that it just might have been caused by standing around a howitzer for several months firing as many rounds in an hour as they were trained to do in a day.

Joe, having started college just before going into the army, resumed his studies on the GI bill.  He had thoughts of staying in France and going to the Sorbonne but really wanted to go home to New York.  He originally decided to study engineering -- not one of his better ideas since Joe and mathematics were not (and are not) friends.  With a BFA and, later, an MFA he soon found his niche in advertising.  While he was a plenty good photographer, etcher, sketcher, ... his real talent was design.  After we became friends, when I had some piece of photographs and text looking good I took it to Joe for a review.  He would leave a trail of red marks all over it -- "this font is 1 point larger than it should be", "right-justify this picture and make it 1/4" smaller", "set this title in a sans serif typeface" ....  None of the changes he proposed were major (well, rarely) but after I made them the difference was very obvious.  I learned a great deal from him and repaid him by keeping his computer files more or less (often less) organized.

After Joe and his wife moved to a retirement community he got out his sketch pad and pencils again.  We had lunch together nearly every week and up until a month or so before his death he came to lunch equipped with pencil box and sketch pad to do quick portraits of people in the cafe.  As soon as he picked up the pencil the tremor from his Parkinson's disease stopped.  Even as his memory failed as soon as we started talking about art he was 30 years younger.  Earlier this year he worked with a young artist to do an etching based on one of his Life Magazine prize-winning photographs.

He was a talented, unceasingly optimistic, witty, gregarious man with a quirky sense of humor and an excellent way with words.  Making friends with him was very easy.  I miss Joe and a lot of other people do, too.