Josef Franz Goller
November 11, 1943 – March 9, 2020
JOSEF FRANZ (“JOE”) GOLLER
Josef Franz (“Joe”) Goller, age 76, passed away peacefully at his home in Nashville, Tennessee on March 9, 2020. He was preceded in death by his father, Josef Karl Goller II; mother, Josefa Anna (Gamp) Goller; a sister, Charlotte Amalia (Goller) Ahlstrand; three brothers, Heinz, Erich and Peter Goller; brother-in-law Norman Ahlstrand; sister-in-law Trude Goller; nephews Gary and John Ahlstrand; and nephew-in-law Steven Cota.
Joe was born in Vienna, Austria in 1943 and immigrated to the United States at age 13 with his parents and next oldest brother Peter, resettling in Los Angeles, California. Joe became a United States citizen in 1958. Several years after receiving his high school diploma, Joe attended hair stylist school and was a barber for a time. He had many adventures in California, including teaching himself to read and write music and penning a number of country / pop songs, writing poetry and fighting forest fires. He was happy to embark on a new adventure when he moved across the country to Nashville, Tennessee in 1988 with a one-way plane ticket, a duffle bag and a guitar.
He lived at Matthew 25, Inc. during his first months in Nashville while looking for work in his new hometown and also worked there as a counselor for homeless men. Through Matthew 25 he met publisher Robert Wolf of Free River Press who several years later published a book of Joe’s poems. He also met new friends who offered him work in construction which eventually led him to being part of a renovation crew in a home where he met his future wife.
After marrying Barbara Brown in 1992 and settling with her in their East Nashville neighborhood, Joe continued to work in construction and also again worked part-time as a counselor in drug and alcohol rehab. After spying a golf cart-turned-mobile-hot-dog-stand in the fenced yard of the local pawn shop, he embarked on a new career in food service, serving hot dogs on the streets of the then rapidly redeveloping downtown historic district on 2nd Avenue, in Centennial Park and within several live music venues.
In 1994, he and his wife purchased an existing neighborhood business that had originally been the location of the first Dairy Queen in Nashville, serving burgers, shakes and soft serve ice cream year-round and renamed it “Moonbeams”, while still running his mobile hot dog service.
After several years of having his eye on a nearby dilapidated junk store property, in 1995 Joe and his wife purchased the building which he redeveloped for a year and a half into a restaurant that opened as Joe’s Diner in March 1997. When a tornado slammed through downtown and East Nashville in April 1998, Joe survived with one of his patrons-turned- best friend Bruce Hawkins in the walk-in cooler of the restaurant. Determined to rise again, he reopened Joe’s Diner as a restaurant and music venue after four months of reconstruction and remained in business for another three years.
After handing off the Joe’s Diner location to a new restaurant venture now known as Rosepepper Cantina, Joe continued his interest in the redevelopment of older, overlooked buildings in the area and put his construction experience to use renovating several of them in a neighborhood that, after the tornado, became an increasingly popular part of a growing city. The construction adventures were not without their challenges, several of which put him on a first name basis with the head of Metro Codes and Zoning!
Over the years Joe enjoyed writing music and playing guitar, hunting for vintage items while traveling country roads, traveling back to his home country of Austria and his wife’s home state of Vermont, honing his skills at vacationing in an RV, playing pool (something he was doing when he dove into that walk-in cooler in April 1998), seeing businesses in the neighborhood thrive in locations that he helped redevelop, playing dominoes, and hanging out with his family, friends and pets. Joe was known as a straight-talker who didn’t mince words – you always knew where you stood with Joe!
Joe is survived by his wife of 28 years, Barbara Ann Brown; a son, Sterling Josef Goller-Brown and girlfriend Kelsey Bateman of Nashville; a daughter, Raven Nicole Goller-Brown and her boyfriend Jacob Wyrick of Antioch; sister-in-laws Hermine (Horak) Goller of Tennessee, Brenda (Sherman) Goller of Iowa, and Holly Gathright of Vermont; brother-in-law James William Brown of Vermont; nieces Monica (Goller) Cota of Tennessee, Charlotte (Ahlstrand) Martin of California, Sue (Ahlstrand) Gardner of Michigan, Angela (Ahlstrand) Yokom of Michigan, Cindy (Ahlstrand) Ringenberg of Washington; and nephews Erich Goller, Jr. of California, Michael Ahlstrand of Washington, and James Ahlstrand of California. Joe is also survived by numerous cousins, great-nieces, great-nephews and beloved friends, neighbors and business colleagues from over the years, and his beloved cat Mitten and dog Jumanji.
Visitation with family and a Celebration of Life for Joe was originally targeted to be held at the end of March, however, in light of the current and rapidly changing public health concerns about the COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic in this region and elsewhere, the family is postponing their decision about a firm date for such an event. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will be posting updated information at this website once a final date and location is confirmed, hopefully by late spring or early summer. It is hoped in the meantime that folks will think of a “Joe story” or two that they can share when the memorial gathering is able to be held. The family wants to thank everyone for their many kindnesses that continue to be given / sent to them by many means since Joe’s passing.
In lieu of flowers, the family kindly suggests that memorial donations can be made in Joe’s name to any of the following non-profits: Shriners Hospitals for Children (https://lovetotherescue.org/), Nashville Humane Association (https://nashvillehumane.org/) and/or The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee for Tornado Relief (https://www.cfmt.org/story/middle-tennessee-emergency-response-fund).
No services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Josef Franz Goller
March 28, 2020
Among the memories of my brother-in-law, Joe, this is one that stands out:
On the first morning of a visit to East Nashville, sleep-deprived and travel-weary, I awoke early. Joe was an early riser too and he liked to begin his day with a cigarette on the front porch. So there we sat with our mugs of coffee, smoke swirling, in the early morning quiet - except for the birdsong, so raucous and beautiful.
It was against that backdrop, without any warning, that Joe began to tell his story. How he was teased as a kid in LA because of his Austrian accent (he sure lost that!), of his difficulties with his father, of his California misadventures. Then, across the country to Nashville where he remade himself, learned a trade, bought property, fell in love, went into business, started a family. The arc of Josef Goller - a very American story, really. To me, Joe's story offers hope and inspiration. It speaks to a certain grit, courage, and the ever-present possibility of personal transformation.
I don't know why Joe chose that morning to share his story with me, but I am honored to have been a witness. I will remember his fierce, generally unfiltered directness, his self-confidence, his gravelly voice, and his wry smile. I will remember him with love. Thinking back on that morning now, had I another chance, I might ask Joe what it felt like to become a US citizen as such a young man, what went through his mind as he made that great transition from west to east, or how it was that he began to write poetry. I don't know the answers to those questions but perhaps someone out there does.
- Jim Brown
March 12, 2020
Joe, we both are very thankful to have had great memories of you at Rose Pepper, Spin, Cobra and especially frequent visits at Joe's Diner where we met you and started our friendships. From Kaci washing dishes at the diner and loving it!!! To good food, drinks, playing pool and especially your company. We can still see you dancing your little "Two Step" to Patton's band and other good music venues you had. You are a very special person to us and you will be greatly missed but never forgotten. All our love to you and your family
Lee Ann & Kaci
March 10, 2020
To great person and friends, been best friends since the Tornado in 98,it was the worst day of our lives, but it was the day I answered my calling in life and spend the next week helping clean up the diner and since that day Joe as claimed as his best friend, we both enjoyed many games of pool at my house over the years and will be missed dearly, love always Bruce