Posted by : Robert Child Tuesday

Joseph Small, 1961 - 2016, Executive Producer, The Wereth Eleven.
As many of you know in the "Wereth Eleven Community" our visionary leader, Joseph Small has passed away at only 54 years of age. He died June 10th and I attended the wake and service in Rockville Centre, NY (Long Island) early last week. This news came as a shock to me and many of Joe's friends and extended family. It is difficult to imagine someone with more vigorous life force than Joe. He made instant friends with absolutely everyone he encountered all around the world - even if they did not speak English. This is quite an accomplishment and absolutely true.

Joseph Small speaking at the National WWII Museum.

Upon getting the call from Tom McArdle regarding Joe's passing I decided to ask people who were closely involved with the Wereth Eleven and close to Joe to send me their thoughts. I told everyone that the number of words didn't matter as long as they were heartfelt. It occurs to me that grief is an emotion we express really for ourselves. We grieve as we will miss the friendship and love that we shared with Joe and grieve for the void that will remain in our lives due to his passing. It is not about the person as we know Joe has moved on to a better place and is no longer in pain. And that fact is something that does offer comfort amid the sorrow.

What follows are those words from among some of Joe's closest friends. This will give you a glimpse into the character and heart of the man who personally became my closest friend. At the end of this tribute article I share my thoughts about him.

Here are some folks thoughts on Joseph Small.

"Let me start by saying that after reading the tributes we can all agree that Joe was certainly generous and was able to make friends very easily. I use to call Joe THE MAYOR cause he was always at his best in and around people. I can recall Joe's first visit to Normandy with me. As we all know Joe could drink coffee like no one else. One morning in Sainte Mete Eglise he disappeared into the local coffee shop I waited about 20 minutes for him and then went looking for him.
I found him holding court with several Frenchmen whom I am sure had a very limited knowledge of English and I know that Joe had no knowledge of French. Seems Joe wanted a coffee to go and the French do not have this custom so he decided to drink his coffee there and entertain the locals. This went on for several days until Joe came back from the coffee shop around day four with the French version of a coffee to go. This shows his great ability to make friends and his cheerfulness.
On location in Maryland while filming THE WERETH 11 I was bitten by a spider and my arm promptly swelled up. Joe was extremely worried about me and drove me home to New Jersey and stayed awhile with me. He then returned to Maryland for further filming.
On another occasion in Normandy while we were out walking the battlefields in our WWII gear I inadvertently became shocked several times by the electrical fences the local farmers put up to prevent their livestock from running off. I could see the look on Joe's face as he was concerned for my safety. In a flash he shed his gear hoped over a gate and was able to get the piece of metal that was connected from my web gear to the electric fence removed. This to me shows Joe's true friendship and his caring for his fellow human beings.
Joe will forever be linked to the WERETH 11. Many times Joe told me that he wanted this story of American soldiers told as he thought their dignity had been taken. This to me shows Joe's concern for his fellow man and to do what is right.
I have many fond memories of Joe. We would talk often as I only lived in NJ and he in NY. We were both sports fans of the local teams and would talk sports for hours on end. When I think
Of it now I will miss those Sunday night calls from Joe when we discussed the days past sporting events. In closing , farewell by dear friend until we meet again may God take care of you and protect you. Your Friend always."
Tommy McArdle, Historical Consultant The Wereth Eleven, Blood and Armor

"We've lost a good friend.  Joe Small was the kind of guy who understood concepts like friendship, loyalty and sacrificing to make dreams come true.  In an age of self-centered concerns, Joe was the kind of man who thought of others first and foremost. He was a rare individual with a great and abiding reverence for military veterans and their sacrifices, particularly during World War II. His keen interest in - and enthusiastic moral and practical backing for - film projects about wartime stories kept a lot of aspiring filmmakers afloat when it looked like we would never roll cameras. His spirit lives on in what we do."  Dale Dye, Los Angeles 

Robert Child and Joe Small accepting the top award at GI Film Fest (2011)
"Joe loved basketball; was a huge Knicks fan, once told me a story about playing with some friends in a pickup game against a junior college team out in Long Island and essentially running the so called hot shots off the court.  Joe said he couldn't miss the bucket that day, and all of the ballers on the college team, kids with basketball scholarships, were just shaking their heads in awe.  He always said we would go to a Knicks game together "one of these days soon."  As bad as the Knicks have been in recent years, Joe never lost his faith in them.  To Joe, every year, they had a shot.

Joe was a natural salesman who could make friends easily, and he had a knack for remembering details about people he was even just acquainted with.  I think he could empathized with others -- always offered his help and his prayers to friends in need because of poor health, for example.  I always enjoyed the way he signed all of his emails... "Your friend, Joe."

My sense was that Joe seemed to live very close to "the other side of the veil."  He saw and heard angels, was visited by apparitions, talked to the Virgin Mary. He was a guy who you would want to pray for you if you needed help, because you got the feeling his prayers were heard better than your own.  For such a big, masculine, physical presence, this was an unusual paradox.

And of course, Joe loved veterans, loved to hear their war stories, and always thanked them for their service. And he seemed to live for his World War II re-enactments, and told me once that Normandy was his "favorite place in the whole wide world."  It was as if he had lived and died on the battlefields of Normandy in another life.  I think some people took advantage of Joe because they could see that he had a heart of gold.  Joe kind of knew that some people were taking advantage of him, but he couldn't help himself, probably because he always wanted to believe the best in people.

I'll miss his presence on this earth, as I'm sure it will be missed by a great many people who knew him much better than did I.

Godspeed, Jo-Jo Small.  Your game will forevermore be "above da rim."

Your friend,

Steve Janson
Janson Media

"Joe was a 100% genuine good guy with a heart the size of a mountain. I am deeply saddened by this news, and speechless. he had so many good stories and historic lessons to share. The world is a lesser place without him."
Bryan Demory, Reenactor Coordinator, Historical Consultant, The Wereth Eleven.

Until we meet again!!! I know you are in heaven with Alex watching over me.  I thank you for the time you shared your love with me.  Your kindness, your generosity from the first day I met you in Wereth, Belgium with your Army shirt and black sweat pants (SMILE!!) ; you approached me as you could tell I was overwhelmed getting ready for the wreath laying ceremony. Of course I said I was good and invited you to come to the luncheon after the ceremony and again, you offered your help as you could tell I was overwhelmed and short individuals to help serve. Again, you offered your help this time I took you up on your offer; you helped clean the tables and throw away trash. That day we never got the opportunity to talk. When you left you gave me your card and we have been friends ever since. More than friends, family, my big brother. We have shared so many memories, good and bad.
The last words you texted to me was “I love you oh so very much”. This is what I will keep always in my heart the LOVE you had for people even when love was not returned the same as you gave it.  I believe this is why God called you home because He is LOVE!!! His LOVE is GREATER!! He loved you first!!! I love you I know that you are watching over me!! Protecting me!! Until We Meet Again!!" 

Your Sister Forever,
Lawanda Warthen

Joe Small was referred to me by Steve Janson and Rob Small. Joe hired me to assist him with legal issues related to his films “The Wereth Eleven” and “USS Franklin: Honor Restored.” We worked on many matters together to ensure he was protected.  Joe’s passion for his projects was contagious. He had big ideas and an even bigger heart. He trusted everyone with whom he did business, sometimes to his disadvantage, but he was always honorable, and fair in his transactions.  Joe made me laugh with his humor and impulsiveness. I thought of Joe as a friend. Rest in peace, my friend. I miss you.
Ted Hammerman Esq., The Ardennes Group, Entertainment Atty.

"It’s not easy to find the right words to honor Joe’s memory.
I think he had the first contact around 2008 with the president of our association, Mrs Adda Rikken
and with Mrs Anne-Marie Noël.
I can only write about mine which started in 2010 when I entered the association.
Here his first words of July 2010:

'Please give my congratulations to Solange and I wish
her luck. She sounds like she'll be a great asset to the team. I look
forward to meeting her in Sept. Regards, Joe'

I remember writing with him many times about the movie presentation on Feb 26th, 2011 in Medell.
He wanted to invite all Wereth and other villages. He wanted all generations to be present.
Joe wanted to make it on the big way and as you know his wishes were realized: more than 300 attended. The movie presentation was a big success and Joe, you, your entire team, our association, all were very happy.
Ken Arnold, Joe Small, Robert Child on the set of The Wereth Eleven

We can say, thanks to Hermann those 11 soldiers were not forgotten and thanks to Joe, you (Rob Child) and your team “The Wereth Eleven” emerge from the shadow in their home country: The United States.

On January 16th, 2016 Joe was so proud to show us his granddaughter Cassandra Claire. At the same time he said he would definitively attend this year’s ceremony.

We know that he really wanted to attend but his different problems and health made it impossible.
We regret not having spent more time with him. Many seem to have it, but only a few really do and Joe was one of them, who have remembrance in their DNA.

Joe, we will never forget you and like Hermann, you will always be included in our mission: preserving “The Wereth Eleven”
to be erased by the memory of time.

Joe’s mails were very deep but always with a touch of humor. Joe was a good man; honor and respect were part of his personality. One of his preferred last sentence was: Pls the face for me.
So Rob, pls slap Joe in the face for us! 

Solange Dekeyser
President, US Memorial Wereth, V.o.G

The Sailing Ship - Bishop Charles Henry Brent

What is dying?
I am standing on the seashore.
A ship sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
She is an object and I stand watching her
Till at last she fades from the horizon,
And someone at my side says, “She is gone!” Gone where?
Gone from my sight, that is all;
She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her,
And just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her;
And just at the moment when someone at my side says, "She is gone",
There are others who are watching her coming,
And other voices take up a glad shout,

"There she comes" – and that is dying.
(provided by Jamie Hobbis)

"Rob, I'm still in disbelief...
I am so deeply saddened to hear Joe has passed away.  He was a most generous, kind hearted fella and I owe him more than he would believe.  We’ve lost our leader and way too early…
“Joe, I hope that you are up there chinking beer glasses with the Heroes you told us about…
We’ll take a breath, we’ll get up, dust ourselves down and we’ll finish your film…”
So long buddy…
Toodle Pip (or Poodle Shit as you used to reply...)"

Jamie Hobbis, London UK
Cinematographer, The Wereth Eleven

"I found Joe to be both humble and inspiring. I didn't know him as well as you did, and I'm sure it's been extremely tough for you to handle - he was a genuinely engaging person who took interest in people.

I always felt that we were doing 'the right thing' when we were working on the Wereth documentary, largely because of the commitment you & Joe had to telling the story of people who couldn't speak for themselves.

I liked Joe, he was a good guy who cared about other people. You can't say that about everybody."

Jonathan Gibson
C4 Inc. Created all the visual effects in The Wereth Eleven.

"We extend our sincere sympathy and prayers, to the entire family of Joe Small, upon his sudden passing. When first meeting Joe a few years ago, we were not only impressed with his very big and welcoming personality, but his constant work and interest in all things military, especially The Ardennes.

As a daughter of a POW in World War II, and as a daughter of a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge in The Ardennes, we thank you Joe for all you did to keep our loved ones plight in the forefront for people to see how – ‘our fathers’ - kept our countries safe.  Thank you!  With great respect and sympathy," Maudy Fowler and Gail Hunt Violette.  June 11, 2016
Joseph Small

"I met Joe Small in September 2009 after giving a speech at the Wereth 11 ceremony in Belgium. I was introduced to him by 2 star General Byron Bagby who told me about this fanatical  guy wanting to do a movie about the 333rd and the Wereth 11. I was immediately struck by his enthusiasm and commitment to making sure the men of the 333rd had their" dignity restored". Two weeks later Joe flew to Chicago and solicited my support on the movie project and he made me feel part of the Emmy nominated  Wereth 11 movie team .At this point it was clear to me Joe was a true American patriot on a mission that would not be denied. I shared with him all I could remember from my dad's experiences and he educated me on the hell they encountered in the Battle of the Bulge. It is important to note during this time my mother was dying of terminal cancer and Joe would always ask me how she was doing and was she still with us ? He sent her a beautiful pink bath robe with her initials that she cherished to the day she died. I believe Joe's most endearing qualities were his  empathy toward people , his kindness and his sense of humor ( i.e" My name is Joe Biggie Smalls I got hops").As Maya Angelou said"  I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel" There is no greater agony than bearing an untold  story in side of you". Joe in producing the untold story of the Wereth 11 did not have this agony. Instead he  gave a voice to the courage and competence of the African American soldier in World War 2 The 333rd field artillery unit  had the heart of the lion and 65 years later they were lucky to have Joe Small to be called upon to give their awesome roar. RIP my dear friend."
R.R Hudson Jr.

"It is with profound sadness that I write these few words about my friend Joe Small after learning of his passing. Joe's passion for defending the voiceless was epic. When he learned of the story of 11 black soldiers who were brutally murdered by the SS during the battle of the bulge, a crime that was never prosecuted even though plenty of evidence was available, he was outraged and took it upon himself to right the wrong that was done to 11 heroes of WWII. The film, The Wereth Eleven, was born and history was about to be rectified. Joe's love for his fellow man, his team and his family was real. He was one of the most generous human beings I've ever met. In so many ways. And he was the most tenacious sonofabitch when it came to defending good vs. evil. If Joe was born in another time (and often I felt he might've been), the SS would have had a formidable adversary in Joe Small. I will miss him and never forget what he has done for the Wereth 11."
Frederic Lumiere, Co-Executive Producer and Editor, The Wereth Eleven.
"Joe you were not the oldest friend I had but you were the dearest and the closest. I know the word "brother" gets tossed around all too casually among male friends but with Joe and I every time we said it to one another it meant something. We said it often to each other at the end of calls...'hey, I love you brother. Love you too brother.' 

We were both there for each other when we went through the hell of our respective divorces at exactly the same time. We leaned on one another and laughed with one another amid the tragedy of our families breaking apart. Joe was there for me when no one else on this planet was. You don't forget that in fact you take that to the grave. Yes we were different personalities but we saw life and our work the same way. He was dedicated and believed in what we had accomplished telling the story of Wereth and Franklin and there was no question that I did. 

Joe was one of the few people I'd ever known who you simply had no doubt about. He was fearless. If you were in a war he is the guy you wanted in your foxhole. In fact Tom McArdle told me at Joe's service that during a WWII reenactment in France Joe essentially saved Tom's skin when he got tangled in an electric fence. But I'll let Tom tell that story. 

Joe was a man who could make friends quicker than I'd ever seen. People wanted to be with him support him and help him and he welcomed everyone to his team. He was also the most caring and generous human being I've ever known a comment which has been echoed by others throughout this tribute. He put his heart and his money where his mouth was.

I was fortunate to speak with Joe just three days before he died. He called me last Tuesday morning and told me how excited he was to be moving forward with a new doctor for his back and a focus on the WWII script we had produced last year. He was upbeat and almost had a tone of trying to cheer me up. I was not downcast or depressed but his mood was infectious. He was happy and seemed at peace. Subsequently I learned from Tom McArdle that Joe in the days just before he died called or visited everyone who was close to him imparting the same positive upbeat tone. I and others are convinced that these calls and visits were Joe saying "goodbye." He knew his time was at hand and he simply wanted to have people remember him in a positive way with lots of laughter. In fact he ended our call with, 'Hey Rob, Sedaka is back!' which of course made me laugh and those were the last words I heard from him. He was such a caring soul that I know he has been welcomed into heaven with one gigantic party with departed souls gathering around roaring with laugher at his incredible stories. Many times he brought tears into my eyes he made me laugh so hard and that is what I am going to remember moving forward. No one will replace you Joe. You were one of a kind and touched so many lives in such a positive way - that's what you can take with with you. You done good on this earth - you done very good and I will miss you my dear friend for the rest of my life."

Love you Brother, Rob Child 

*Please share this article in your social media circles. The more people who know about this man may inspire others to make this planet a better place.

Check out the novel, The Lost Eleven: The Forgotten Story of Black American Soldiers Brutally Massacred in World War II, based on the Wereth Eleven story.

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