Joseph Patrick Boyle Jr. died on November 21, 2023. Born in Toledo in 1975, he spent an idyllic childhood in Grand Rapids, Ohio, working at his dad’s store, and playing along the river with friends. He was a 1993 graduate of St. John’s Jesuit.
While in college at Bowling Green State University, he met the love of his life, Kathryn (Katie) Slawinski. They graduated in 1998 and moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where Joe worked as a newspaper reporter. They married on May 29, 1999.
From 1999 to 2004, he volunteered as a communications officer with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. He served two years as a district staff officer, qualified as boat crew and a watchstander after 9/11, and had adventures aboard four cutters on three oceans and the Great Lakes. He developed websites for a number of auxiliary and active-duty units. The little kid inside of Joe pretty much ran the place, but was particularly evident when he was underway.
Influenced by a trip to New York just after 9/11, he went back to BGSU to become a teacher. He was hired by Toledo Public Schools in 2004, and sent to Rogers High School. In 2014, he transferred to Morrison R. Waite High School, and in his heart became a Nickel. The students gave him life, and he loved every single moment in the classroom.
Joe’s career orbited the Second World War. In 2012, he and a student were selected to travel to France to research the war. Out of that trip, he started TPS’s “Fallen Heroes” project through a World War II elective course he designed. Joe went back to Northern Europe as part of a National History Day team tasked by the American Battle Monuments Commission to build curriculum around those buried in our American overseas cemeteries.
He was recognized many times for his teaching, including 2011 BCSN Teacher of the Year, 2015 Ohio American Legion State Teacher of the Year, and 2019 Gilder-Lehrman Ohio History Teacher of the Year. Joe served on a national committee of the American Federation of Teachers to help design a curriculum to help students spot disinformation. He was also the author of “Toledo’s War,” a five-volume history of Toledo and World War II.
Joe also worked on a project involving students from BGSU, and universities in North Africa. In 2010, he traveled to Tunisia with a team of students and faculty from BGSU, and when Tunisians seized their freedom in 2011, he barely slept for days from the excitement of seeing democracy bloom in a nation he’d fallen in love with.
He enlisted in his own struggle during the Arab Spring when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Joe endured surgeries and experimental treatments, and did (most of) it with a smile on his face. His steadfastness during a 12-year battle with cancer that he’d described as “living with a gun pointed at your head” was seen by many as courageous, though he would argue it wasn’t.
What made his life worth living more than anything else were his three kids: Elise (Ellie), Joseph (Joe), and Mark. He went on road trips with them; attended games of his beloved Cleveland sports teams with them; they made silly music videos, they ran together, and through his whole struggle with cancer, he told anyone who’d listen, “This is all about making memories for them.” Not getting to watch them grow up, not getting old with Katie, and not meeting his grandkids (he’d have been one hell of a grandpa) are the only things he regrets more than never seeing a Cleveland baseball or football world championship.
Joe is survived by his wife, Katie, and children Ellie, Joe, and Mark; his mother Betsy, also of Bowling Green; his sister Kathy (Aaron) Gray, of Hartville, Ohio; nine incredible nieces and nephews; dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins; dear friends on every continent; and more than 2,000 Toledo students he was privileged to teach, whom he always considered “his kids.” He was preceded in death by his father, Joe Sr.
A visitation will be held on Thursday, December 7, 2023, from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Dunn Funeral Home, located in the Historical District of Bowling Green, Ohio at 408 W. Wooster St. A memorial service will held at Bowling Green City Schools Performing Arts Center at 540 West Poe Road on Friday, December 8 at 6:00 p.m. with the family receiving guests at 5:00 p.m. Burial at Oak Grove Cemetery will be private and he will be shared around this world he loved so much.
Memorials can be made to the Boyle Children’s education fund, or to the Janet Phleger Foundation. But the memorial he demands of all of you is to write down some of the stories you want your children to know some day, and give them the gift of your history.