In Memoriam: Joseph Chern

Longtime FFRF member Joseph Chern, 94, died at his home on Sept. 16. He was born April 22, 1922, in St. Paul, Minn., to Russian immigrants.

Joe enlisted in the Air Force during World War II. After the war, he attended the University of Minnesota, majoring in forestry and wood technology. His early career was as a forester in California and Minnesota, where he had particularly fond memories of working on the Iron Range. He moved to Madison, Wis., in 1952 to do research at the USDA Forest Products Laboratory.

Joe and Joyce were married in 1955 and moved into the house they built on the shores of Lake Monona in Wisconsin.

After retirement, he and Joyce joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Talca, Chile. He then joined the Executive Service Corps and was sent to Egypt, Honduras, Belize and Bosnia to help set up wood dry kilns. He had an exemplary work ethic, and in his spare time built three homes and wrote two books.

Joe had been a member of FFRF since 1979. His lifelong desire to donate his body to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School was granted.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Joyce Western Chern, son Andy Chern (Tiffani) and daughters Laura Chern (John Voorhees) and Cindy Casalina (Jeff) and many grandchildren.

“We’ll sure miss Joe — who was an FFRF member since 1979,” said Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-presidents. “Joe first started dropping by when we had rented offices off the Capitol Square in the early 1980s. He’d stop by with a warm chuckle and some astute strategy for us to try. Joe was a very caring and endearing person who made life more enjoyable and enlightened for those around him. We admired his deep commitment to justice around the globe.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation