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Cruikshank’s Halifax Funeral Home

2666 Windsor Street, Halifax, NS

OBITUARY

Joe Vermes

December 17, 1957August 19, 2020

Talented fingerstyle guitarist, artistic craftsman, and loving son, husband and father Joe, 62, of Halifax, passed away unexpectedly August 19, 2020, in Shubenacadie, N.S., at his favourite place, the family farm.

He is survived by spouse Susan Belmore-Vermes; sons Matthew and Jason; stepmother Livia Vanik; in-laws Wade and Gail Belmore; nephew Dylan Belmore and his son, our dear little Sawyer; in-laws David and Anita Manuel; and countless cousins in Hungary. He will also be dearly missed by the many friends he considered family.

Joe was born in Limerick, Ireland, to his parents Katalin Szegedi (Csibi) and Joseph Vermes who fled Hungary during the 1956 revolution. The family arrived in Canada in 1959. He was predeceased by his mother; father; and stepfather, Ferenc (Frank) Szegedi; and in-laws Jackie and Gary Belmore.

In lieu of a service, where a eulogy would have provided more details about Joe’s life, the family wanted to give people a flavour of the man that he was, and the rich and interesting life he had.

Joe was always close with his mother and recalled that it was often “just the two of them”. She instilled in him a love of Hungarian culture and insisted he learn the language as a child. They only spoke Hungarian at home — even as an adult, Joe’s booming voice would fill the family home with their colourful language during daily phone calls. In her later years, he remained a constant in her life with almost daily visits after she moved into a nursing home.

Growing up on Lake Charles in Dartmouth, Joe described his younger years as idyllic. Hungarian families and many new Canadian friends — the Molcsans, Gibsons and others — were always gathering at one house or another. Food, dancing and music were plentiful. He would say that because they spent so much time together, the Molcsan girls and the Gibson children became like his brothers and sisters. Along the lake, Joe roamed the woods, fished and swam with friends — he would brag to his sons about his ability to swim from one end to the other. As a student at Dartmouth Academy, he excelled in track and field, winning many competitions. Like his father, he was also artistically inclined and was painting as a young teenager. Those who spent time in Joe’s teenage bedroom would remember the two large murals he painted on the walls, both inspired by album covers: Jimmy Hendrix’s Gypsy on Cloud Nine and Osibisa’s Woyaya.

In 1973, as a teenager, Joe and his mother moved to Hungary in order to be near her family. He loved it there — the city life of Debrecen where they lived, the country pace of Bodaszőlő where his mother was born, and the “soil” and the “trees”. It was during this period that he discovered his love of the guitar while spending time with a young band. The leader, Micky, who still plays music in Hungary today, took him under his wing.

Because military service was mandatory for all young men in Hungary, Joe and his mother returned to Canada in 1975. There were concerns that his service and placement would be difficult because he was Canadian in the eyes of the Hungarian government. As they couldn’t buy tickets for a return flight while in Hungary at the time, the Gibson family stepped in to help, taking out a loan and paying on their behalf.

They lived with the Gibsons at a small house in Spryfield until his mother found work and a place to live. This was a tremendous act of generosity by the Gibsons — a gesture that Joe and his mother never forgot — and they remained lifelong friends. When asked how the eight Gibsons, plus Joe and his mother, could fit in a three bedroom house with one bathroom, Joe would shrug and say it just worked.

He, Lex and Ovid shared one room; Desiree, Sandra and Angela another. Joe said that he learned his “cool and smooth moves” from Ovid.

As a student at J.L. Ilsley High School, Joe pursued Susan relentlessly until she finally agreed to go out with him. When he told his friends that she was the girl he would eventually marry, they all laughed at him. Around the same time, Joe focused on learning the guitar and played in high school talent shows, primarily to meet girls. He was a truly natural player. Mostly self taught, he studied other guitarists and learned songs by ear. Musicians of the era might recall the experience of playing records on repeat, moving the needle back and forth on the turntable, in order to memorize them — there were no YouTube tutorials to watch in the 70s, and no money for lessons. That passion for music led Joe to pub and bar stages in Halifax and Dartmouth throughout the late 70s and into the 80s, first as part of Scott Rogers’s band, then in the groups Alias, Winchester, and Tulsa. Joe could play just about any genre of music, but always loved southern rock music. He was primarily a lead guitarist, but learned piano when he joined Scott Rogers, was a skilful vocalist (especially on harmony), and could also pick up a bass and banjo. Joining Alias was particularly exciting as one of the band members, Mike Jackson (or, “Jack”, as Joe called him), played a Hammond organ — and always Joe loved the instrument’s sound. Lugging it to and from gigs may have had some drawbacks, however.

Through music he met life-long friends, especially Mike Cummings and Jack. Through Cummings, he met Frank, Wally and Don, and the group spent countless weekends “fishing” at Vinegar Lake, or at Don’s home on Piggott Lake. There are hats, T-shirts and other memorabilia that mark their times together as the so-called Piggott Lake Mafia — and unless you knew them, some of their stories would seem unbelievable! Joe also never forgot a face and when he would run into people years after meeting them, it was like they had been together just the day before.

After Joe and Susan married in 1982, they eventually rounded out the family with two sons, Matthew and Jason. Joe was so proud of his sons, both who are equally educated with master-level degrees in their areas of study, medicine and journalism. Like their father, they were musically gifted and would go on to play the piano. Joe was so impressed that Matthew lived and studied in Hungary, became completely fluent in the language, and grew to be part of his large, extended family during his time there. He was amazed to watch Jason perform on stage in musicals, and especially as the lead role in his high school production of Rent, and with Neptune Theatre’s Youth Performance Company. His two favourite gifts came from the boys, a guitar tuner and the beloved Apple TV that allowed him to watch endless YouTube videos. He always said he wished his father had lived to see the amazing information he discovered because he would have been fascinated.

The family’s lives were always filled with music, whether it be recitals with their boys, family gatherings with the Belmore cousins in Caribou, parties with the Hungarian and Deaf communities, or the annual Alexander/Sooley summer roasts in Bridgewater with both old and new friends. Regardless of the audience, Joe typically brought along his guitar. Susan’s longest and closest friends — Linda, Patty, Denise, Debbie and Nathalie — were always special to him, and he greeted them with big hugs and kisses, often calling them “baby,” his term of endearment. Joe and Susan were always surrounded by people from many cultures and walks of life, which contributed to so many of their interests — their love of good food, where they traveled and the music they enjoyed — and the way they raised their family.

Joe built the family’s first home, a large cedar-sided Cape Cod-style house in Shubenacadie, which he considered one of his greatest achievements. There were always family or friends around to lend a hand with some of the heavy lifting and interior finishings. A creative handyman with an eye for detail and a love of the unique, Joe designed and crafted the cupboards and stained glass doors that defined the kitchen. He also engineered a lifelike goldfish pond for the living room. Over the years, he expanded the property and, never satisfied, made constant improvements with his beloved tractors. The five acres of property on which the house stood became his sanctuary — a place he found peace while landscaping, building and shaping the property into the “park” he always dreamed of.

In 1989, Joe’s life changed when he contracted meningitis, leading to significant hearing loss and curtailing his music career. While he continued to play guitar for small gatherings, and with a few close friends, he filled the void with his other talents — songwriting, wood carving, landscaping and faux finishing, the latter he learned during a weekend course in Boston led by his childhood friend Mike Abraham. At one time, the Shubenacadie house had faux marble pillars in the dining room, and he also faux finished a staircase for a friend's cottage.

Needing to be closer to their parents, however, Joe and Susan eventually sold the home in Shubenacadie and returned to Halifax. While condo living gave Joe a break from the constant maintenance that came with their first home, it wasn’t long before he committed himself completely to a new pet project. He always loved his father-in-law Gary’s acreage in Shubenacadie and following Gary’s death in 2013, Joe took over the property. With his trusty Kubota (and a growing collection of tools and gadgets), he cultivated haskap berry bushes, manicured the forests surrounding the property, excavated a pond that is fed by an underground aquifer, and offered much-needed love to Gary’s neglected log home that he helped build decades earlier.

In the weeks before his death, Joe completed his years-long goal of carving a trail that leads to a secluded river deep in the woods. When Gary had bought the property in the mid 70s, he took Joe back and showed him the river — and Joe always wanted to have easy access to it.

The family would like to thank everyone who was so supportive of Joe (and Susan), particularly over the last couple of years as he dealt with a number of health issues. Frank and Mike were a constant support with phone calls and visits, and by taking him to treatments and appointments when Susan couldn’t. The family would also like to thank Tony, Tim, Kevin and Charles who stopped by the farm regularly to keep him company and lend a hand in pursuit of his goal for the property.

At his request, there will be no funeral service, and a private family memorial will take place at a later date. For those who would like to make a donation in Joe’s name, please consider the charity of your choice.

Memories

Joe Vermes

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Sandra Logan (Gibson)

September 16, 2020

My Dear Joseph,

May you be at peace and in paradise with your mom, dad and extended family. Growing up in a new country was foreign but being surrounded by others who could relate - helped ease the shock. You will be greatly missed, but never forgotten. Until we meet again my friend.

- Sandra Logan (Gibson) and Family

Desiree Gibson

September 5, 2020

Susie and Family,

My deepest condolences on the loss of your husband Joseph. I hope your beautiful memories can bring you comfort during this unhappy time. Joseph will always be apart of our family. I have many loving memories of our families being together. Please accept our deepest sympathy.

Love Desiree Gibson & Benjamin Mc Allister

Angela Gibson-Vincent

September 5, 2020

Susie, Matthew, Jason, and family, I am so sorry to hear the passing of Joseph. It was a shock to hear this news. He will be missed dearly but will always be in our hearts. He will give us signs so we must pay attention.

I have wonderful memories of Joseph. He was one of my brothers. My mom and I would go over to his family's house on several occasions. I would have been in grade 4. Loud music, singing, whistling and lots of Hungarian food being cooked. I would wander to Joseph's room with the huge mural of the elephant from the “Woyaya album”. He would greet me with a warm smile. I would ask," Joseph could I comb your hair?" He would say 'sure'.

I would be so excited. Joseph would sit and I would be styling his silky dark brown hair. It seemed like hours. He would never say, 'No'. He was always so patient and good to me. He would be playing his tunes Someone is knocking on my door, Doobie Brother's, Long way home and Woyaya. When he would play Woyaya everyone in the house would sing We are going Heaven knows where we are going, we know we will get there. The house would be filled with music, happiness, and lots of love. I will always remember these wonderful memories. God Bless you all. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Sending you light and love.

Love Angela and Family

Ovid Gibson

September 5, 2020

Susie, Mathew, Jason and family, I would like to extend my continuous condolences and to thank you for having me and my family at the farm (which Joseph loved) to spread Joseph’s ashes and say farewell.

Joseph my friend & brother you’re gone too soon.
I met Joseph, his mom and dad around 1970. They loved entertaining and their hospitality was second to none. My family was invited to their home in Waverley on numerous occasions for barbecues, sleepovers, fishing, swimming and ice skating on the lake which was a few hundred yards from the house.
Being around Joseph was always a lot of fun and adventure.
I recalled the day Joseph, my brother Lex and I went fishing in Joseph’s father’s boat, fishing in different coves around the lake, stopping and starting the outboard motor each time we moved.
After having fished for several hours we decided to head back to the house when the unexpected happened, the starter cord for the outboard broke rendering it out of commission, that’s when we began to panic about the distance we had to row to get back and explaining to Joseph’s dad what happened. Joseph being the calm, cool guy he was told us not to worry about the outboard his dad will take care of it and sure enough that was the way it went.
Susie, Mathew and Jason you’re in my thoughts and prayers, Joseph has departed from this realm but he will never be forgotten because of the beautiful memories he has left us.
Take care, God Bless You & Comfort You and I pray your sad times are few. Little by little we let go of loss but never of Love.

Love Ovid Gibson and Family

Patti Colford

August 29, 2020

Susan, Matthew and Jason,
I have so many wonderful memories tucked away in my head. They all started with the handsome young man that Susan started dating during our teenage years. Truth be told, Joe must have felt like he was dating all of Susan’s friends! Where Susan went...so did the rest of us girls. Joe never seemed to mind and accepted us. Many hours passed listening to Joe sing to us and I will never listen to “Never Been to Spain” without thinking of him! It was my favourite song and he always played it for me. Joe always made a person feel so welcome when you came to visit! Always a kiss and a “Hi Babe”. I was amazed at his artistic talent, having a first hand look at the mural(s) on his bedroom wall. Life will go on, but Joe will be always in our hearts and memories.

Peter Manolakos

August 28, 2020

Joe and I met one day in the parking lot of our condo building. He looked at me and said, “Hey, who are you?” I answered, “I’m Peter the Greek” He said, “ Well I’m Joe the Hungarian”. He then reached into a paper bag he was carrying, whipped out a sausage of some sort, broke it in half, offered it to me and said “here, you’ll like this”. That was the beginning of our friendship, and one of many wonderful memories I have of Joe. He was very proud to show me his farm and shared his dreams of hascap berry farming with me. I regret that I never did get to taste them.
Joe, I will miss you.

Donna Bennett

August 28, 2020

Susan, I am so very sorry to hear of Joe's passing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your sons. Take care

Donna

Nathalie Keroack

August 27, 2020

To the Belmore-Vermes family, Susan, Matthew, Jason, Wade, Gail, Dylan, and Joe and Susan’s closest friends, I cannot imagine the sorrow you must feel after the loss of someone as special as Joe. You have my deepest sympathy. Susan, you and I became fast friends from the moment we met all these years ago. You invited me into your life with wide open arms. You and Joe embraced my family as part of your own, and I will always cherish the wonderful moments we had together. I will miss Joe terribly. A generous man with a great sense of humour. A man who created beauty around him. Our “man and a half” with his toolbelt, and the only one of my friends with the European flair to kiss this French girl on both cheeks properly. Thank you for this heartfelt memorial. What a full life Joe has lived; there were some hardships, but so much joy, and so, so much love.

James MacDonald

August 27, 2020

For me Joe was like a magnet. Whenever or wherever I would be in the same place I was always drawn to Joe to hear what he had to say and learn of his latest project as his talents were extraordinary. I miss that. Kind thoughts from Glenda and I to Susan and family.

Shelley Baker

August 27, 2020

Susan, I am so truly sorry to hear of the passing of Joe. You and your family have been in my prayers since hearing the news. May Joe's beautiful memory be a blessing to you and your boys.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Susan and Joe during their most recent Caribbean cruise. Over the past few years, Joe grew to love cruising and they traveled by boat throughout the Mediterranean and Caribbean.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Joe, pictured with his mother Katalin in 1957 or 1958, in Limerick, Ireland.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe and his mother, pictured in New Brunswick circa 1960, the year after they first landed in Canada.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe and his mother, pictured during a return trip to Hungary in 1967.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Joe, third from right, pictured with Lex Gibson, friends and his mother, right.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe was artistic from a young age. First a painter, he moved into woodworking and landscaping.

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