A year has passed since Emeryville’s Park Avenue neighborhood lost a well-respected and beloved neighbor. Joel Devin died on November 2nd, 2019 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 66 years old.
Devin and his partner-in-life Gail Tarantino moved to Emeryville in 2000 buying a unit in the Emeryville Warehouse Lofts after its conversion.
Devin was known and admired within the community for using his personal time and labor to provide some greenery to a patch of barren land on the southern edge of the Sherwin-Williams site. An area that many neighbor’s referred to as “Joel’s Park.”
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I took this awhile back at Joel’s DIY micropark on Sherwin Ave. Not sure if this #sunflower was planted or grew wildly but I like to think it was natures way of acknowledging his hard work in creating communal space for neighbors. #emeryville #evilleeye #evillebeauty #evillespots
Devin toiled bringing buckets of water to irrigate the handfuls of grass seed he transported from an East Bay golf course he worked at. He installed a golf practice net he acquired from Urban Ore, decorative rocks, seating and bits of found art. He regularly pulled weeds and picked up the trash that accumulated in the area.
“It was an unexpected oasis located next to the remains of the paint factory that had moved out a few years earlier,” noted longtime Emeryville neighbor Bryan Hord. “It was magic.”
Devin was the first neighbor The E’ville Eye profiled early in our existence when we were targeting a more Humans of New York style blog. “Change your life and your routine often,” was among the bits of wisdom he shared. “Don’t get bored and don’t give up on yourself, your friend or your neighbors.”
He also provided a bit of levity “Own a good sleeping bag and a tent that won’t leak. Be willing and ready to give up all you own and still have everything you need. It’s simple to think you need to be rich to be happy but try being happy first then see what happens.”
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Joel was so-very-brave. One year ago, this photo was taken 9 days before his death and minutes before his last appointment, when he told a small group of palliative care docs that his only regret was not being a window dresser in NYC for at least a year. It was a very Joel moment and they all laughed. It was what he did, even when we both knew he was at the end of his life. Honestly, It is excruciating at times to live without Joel’s joy and love, and I know he would have made living in a global pandemic a lot more adventurous and home fun, carrying along a unique perspective, but this is the life we all have right now and I’ll take it with bells on. For me, for Joel, for us. 🖤 #grief #truth
Devin maintained his sense of humor up until the end of his life noting his only regret as “not being a window dresser in NYC for at least a year.”
Devin’s obituary was published on Legacy.com in addition to his native Braintree, MA hometown newspaper. Several entries captured Devin’s approachability, positive demeanor and universal like-ability. “Your presence was infectious with amazing laughter, smiles, humor, talent and energy,” noted one entry by someone who identified themselves as a longtime friend.
“He was joyful, original, playful, inventive and chatty,” Tarantino scribed about her longtime partner. “He was a whirlwind of physical motion, an irrepressible spirit, a very kind human. He saw the humanity in each and every person regardless of who they were. There was no hierarchy.”
He is survived by his partner of 39 years, three brothers and many nieces, nephews, sisters-in-law, cousins and friends.