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Joe Sweeney
Continuing a Life of Learning & Art

Joe Sweeney was born on August 18, 1931 in the small agricultural town of Weston, West Virginia. He was third in line in a family of 4 boys and just one girl who also happened to be the oldest. He also has a half brother from his mother's first husband (who died of the flu).

Joe met his future wife, Millie, at school at the Newman Club. "We both loved to dance and we dated until we graduated in June and then got married in August, 1955."

Together they had 5 children: Sarah Lisa, Suzan, Sean, Stephen and Mary Rachel. After Stephen they ran out of "S" names they liked, but since then Joe says, he has thought of more. They also have 2 grandchildren.

Joe Sweeney with wife Millie
Joe and Milie Sweeney

"My wife is so sweet to put up with me. She's very docile. I guess I'm not. My kids think I'm too bossy."

Joe did his undergraduate work at Catholic University in Washington where he planned on being an artist. His father convinced him that he would not be able to make a living as an artist.

As a result he went into pre-med. From there he went on to the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine.

Joe practiced podiatry for 41 years before his retirement in 1996. As a podiatrist, Joe had surgical privileges at the old Bay View Hospital which then united with St. Johns to become St. Johns Westshore. He was the first podiatrist to have privileges at St. Johns Westshore and Fairview General.

Joe Sweeney

"Podiatry allowed me to have regular hours, I wasn't on call, I got to talk to people - and I really love that - and I got to know my patients. I held their foot instead of shaking their hand!"

He really does love to talk, in fact he thinks it borders on "disease." But then he says "I'm Irish and you know the Irish all love to talk, so I guess I can't help myself!"

Joe has never forgotten his love of art and painting. He teaches a water color class in a rehab unit for patients with Alzheimer's or recovering from a stroke or amputation.

"Now that I'm retired I'm trying to give back a little something to the community."

18 years ago, he and 2 women formed the West Virginia Watercolor Society. He was president of the society for four years.

Watercolor of President James Monroe's house
Joe Sweeney's watercolor of
President James Monroe's house

He is also a past president of the Rotary as well as the Northeastern Ohio Academy of Podiatric Medicine.

He has spent the last several years teaching English to Hispanics at El Barrio. El Barrio is an important resource in the Hispanic community offering numerous programs. Joe is often on-call to assist people with English to obtain citizenship.

Just because he is retired does not mean Joe is not active. He swims three times a week, averaging a half mile a day. "My parents died at 97 and 98 years old. I have to stay active so I can outlive them."

His father was a compulsive worker, as is Joe. His father didn't retire until he was 90 years old. "I can't sit still. I love to read, but it's hard for me to sit still and do it." At one time his father planted half a million Christmas trees as a "side job" to make some extra money.

Joe loves to travel to places that he can paint. Among his favorites are Tahiti, Macedonia, Quebec and Costa Rica. He also went to El Salvador for 2 weeks on a medical mission with another podiatrist, a nutritionist, a dermatologist and a respiratory therapist.

Joe Sweeney

He attends Sagrada Familia Church on Detroit Ave. "I have been going there for 7 years. I listen to the priest speak in Spanish and it helps me learn the language."

Joe Sweeney's watercolor
Another of Joe Sweeney's watercolors

Joe loves to paint. "I don't think I'm a great painter, but I have the rudimentary skills of painting and I just love doing it. I know I'll never make any money on it, but that doesn't matter."

He is mainly a landscape artist, not portraits. He generally paints from his own photographs, scenery, flowers "whatever suits me".

Joe also takes part in Project 60, a state run program in which anyone over 60 can audit a class at any state, city or county college. (Cleveland State, CCC, Lakeland Community College, Lorain etc.)

Joe Sweeney's watercolor
Another of Joe Sweeney's watercolors

Joe loves to garden. He has an American garden with an Oriental influence. He started 9 years ago with a 5 year plan that just keeps evolving.

He has a statuary garden with sculptures he has acquired from the CSU art department. He created a bronze casting of Adonis taking a shower complete with a fountain over his head. Adonis can be found in his back yard pond.

Joe Sweeney's watercolor
Another of Joe Sweeney's watercolors

Joe has no idea what the future holds for him, but he knows he will be surrounded by the family he loves, his watercolors and lots of people to talk to. "Other than that, I can't say."

Joe Sweeney
Joe sees the world through the eyes of an artist. He sees color and sunshine in places most of us take for granted. He has a winning smile and as much as he loves to laugh he is happier when he can make you laugh.

Henry Ward Beecher once said ""Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures." It is evident in Joe's work that his soul is content and filled with happiness.

Profiled by Debbie Hanson

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Joe Sweeney
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