Before his senior year of high school, Joseph E. Dahm moved from his native Cleveland to Utica due to his father being transferred.
Moving from out of town to a new location, especially before senior year, might lead some people to retreat into shyness. Not Joe. Almost overnight his outgoing personality meant he knew pretty much everyone in his class at Utica Catholic Academy. That included a cute fellow senior, Carol Greineder, who would become his wife for 63 years.
That was typical for Joe, who died July 23 at age 86, those who knew him said. He was a man people rarely talked about without the word “genial” attached to his name.
That attribute held him in good stead as a community relations manager for IBM from 1965 to 1991. While he had assignments in Mahwah, New Jersey and White Plains, many of those years were spent as manager of communications and community relations for IBM Endicott.
The attribute also held him in good stead when, after retirement from IBM, he did public relations and marketing work for a variety of community agencies, including Literacy Volunteers and the Broome County Council of Churches.
On the professional level, “he was the consummate public relations professional. He was well prepared when you called and, if he didn’t know something, he knew how to get what you needed in a short time frame,” said Jeffrey Platsky, former business editor and now investigations editor with the Press & Sun-Bulletin.
On the personal level, he was known for humorous stories and jokes, and for the fact that he didn’t mind laughing at himself.
Joe began his IBM career after working as a reporter for the Endicott Daily Bulletin and the Binghamton Press. He and Carol had moved to Broome County after Joe served in the U.S. Air Force in the Philippines during the Korean War and then earned a degree in communications from Utica College of Syracuse University.
Journalism was his forte because he loved being around people and asking questions, his family said. As Johnson City bureau chief for the Press, he covered stories ranging from local politics to crime to human interest.
Faced with a growing family to support — he and Carol would ultimately have eight children — Joe moved to IBM in 1965. But he never lost his appreciation for the newspaper business. One of the jokes among his IBM colleagues was that every morning, like clockwork, Joe would put a newspaper under his arm and disappear for a while, said Betty Casey, his assistant who succeeded Joe as community relations manager in Endicott.
Joe also earned the humorous nickname “Mr. Flexibility,” Casey added. The name stemmed from the answer Joe would give every time a reporter called asking why IBM was buying properties in Endicott. “He would say, ‘We don’t have a specific use. We just need flexibility,” Casey remembered, with a chuckle.
The job was one he truly enjoyed because he enjoyed dealing with people, his daughter, Beth Shumaker, said. He always felt fortunate to have landed a job at IBM.
The last years, though, became more stressful as IBM began downsizing its workforce in the area. “He was more uptight when he came home. He wasn’t as happy-go-lucky as he used to be,” Shumaker said.
Still, Joe looked back more with understanding than anger in a 2011 Press & Sun-Bulletin article on IBM’s 100th anniversary. “They have to compete nationally and internationally. They have to do what they have to do,” he said.
Time for fun
While his career was important, there was more to Joe than work. One of the overarching themes of his father’s life was his profound commitment to community service, Paul Dahm, one of five sons, said. He felt people should give back if they have the opportunity and means to do so. His obituary listed voluntary service on the boards of 11 local agencies.
“One of the things I admired about Joe is that he wasn’t selfish about anything,” remembered Evancho, an IBM co-worker and friend for 35 years.
It was a busy life, to be sure, but it never felt as if his father was too busy to spend time with his family, Dahm said. One of his favorite memories is hearing his father driving home on Fridays with the car windows open, and music blaring, as he shed his work persona and got ready for the weekend.
Then, it became time to play with his children, plan weekend events or be with friends. “He was a social butterfly. He got his energy from other people,” Shumaker said.
One example of this was regular Friday night outings to restaurants with Carol and one, or two, other couples. During these dinner dates, Joe would have a beer, or two, and tell stories. “I must have heard these stories 50 times, but they were always funny,” Evancho said.
“He had an amazing sense of humor, and the ability to find humor in almost everything,” his son added. And he loved being the center of attention, so much so that Shumaker would kid him about having “a big head.”
The kidding didn’t bother him one bit. “He worked hard so that he could play hard,” Paul Dahm said.
A strong couple
During their 63 years of marriage, Carol and Joe balanced each other out. They met when Carol saw him in a hallway at Utica Catholic Academy and was immediately attracted to his outgoing nature. “I said, ‘he’s going to be mine,’” Carol said, remembering that she followed up with an invitation to a hayride. “There were a lot of other hayrides after that,” she said, with a laugh.
Within the family, Carol was the quieter one, and the disciplinarian, while Joe was more laid back, although he could show some anger at times. “As kids if we got too full of ourselves, we’d get deflated pretty quickly,” Paul Dahm remembered.
Their marriage had its sad moments. A daughter, Susan, died of a brain tumor when she was eight years old. Years later, a grandson died of cancer, bringing back painful memories.
“They would figure out how to deal with it in the best way possible,” Paul Dahm said.
Faith was an important part of their coping process. Joe was an active member of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Vestal, serving as a parish council member, lector, Eucharistic minister and trustee. He and Carol made sure their children got to Mass every Sunday. One of Joe’s proudest accomplishments was helping to plan and raise money for a new church building.
His Memorial Mass would take place in that building.
Joe stayed active into his later years. He biked, played golf and competed in senior softball in the Central New York Senior Softball League until his late 70s.
“He never felt old” is how Shumaker put it.
Until six years ago, he did part-time community relations work with the Broome County Council of Churches and volunteered after that.
“He was a mentor, for sure,” said the Rev. Dr. Joseph Sellepack, executive director of the Broome County Council of Churches.
In that role, he provided guidance, networking opportunities and advice when Sellepack became executive director. And he always had a joke.
His father lived a meaningful life for 86 years, Paul Dahm emphasized. He enjoyed life and had his share of laughs. “I would take that deal in a minute,” Dahm said.
Joseph E. Dahm was predeceased by his parents; sisters; daughter, Susan; grandsons, Sean and Michael Andrew. He is survived by his wife, Carol; children, Mark (Kathleen) Dahm, Dave (Sara) Dahm, Tom (Jane) Dahm, Mary (Dan) Stanton, Beth (Andy) Shumaker, Paul (Betsy) Dahm and Chris (Linda) Dahm; 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
For the complete article, go to: https://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/connections/life-lived/2018/09/16/joseph-dahm-apalachin-remembering-life-lived/1268411002/