Estill senior, who lost both parents in three weeks, graduates, plans for college

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJune 5, 2014 

  • How to help Joe Snowden

    A fund for Joe Snowden has been set up at Citizens Guaranty Bank in Irvine. Here is the address where donations can be sent: Joe Snowden Fund Citizens Guaranty Bank P.O. Box 630 Irvine, KY 40336
  • Lexington's graduation schedule

    Here is the graduation schedule for Fayette County Public Schools. All the ceremonies will be in Rupp Arena in Lexington.

    Friday June 6

    4 p.m.- Lafayette

    7 p.m. - Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Saturday June 7

    10 a.m. - Tates Creek

    1 p.m. - Bryan Station

    4 p.m. - Henry Clay

    Source: Fayette County Public Schools

Estill County High School senior Joe Snowden's father died from an illness on March 21.

His mother was killed in a car wreck April 10.

But Joe, 18, said with "a real outpouring" of help from the Estill County community, he made it through losing two parents in three weeks and graduated Wednesday night with his class.

"I was really happy to be able to do what Mom wanted me to do and Dad wanted me to do," Joe said of Gary Snowden and Marinda Lewis.

"There's still responsibilities and things that need to be taken care of in life and if you let it hinder you, you just fall back further and further."

Joe's school counselor Melissa Neal said he "managed to have good grades at school no matter how hard life got for him."

Joe said he has signed up for college classes. In the fall, he will commute from Irvine to Bluegrass Community and Technical College while he works toward becoming an electrician. He wants to have his own business one day.

After the deaths, several people helped so he would have the means to finish his senior year and plan for college.

"He is truly an individual who needed the generosity and help of the community in order to survive," Neal said.

To support himself, Joe does odd jobs and works part-time at Meade's Do-it Center, a hardware and lumber store in Irvine.

Until Wednesday, he was working at Meade's as part of a school program, but store manager Sharon Scott said she's decided to hire him.

"He's very responsible and he's a hard working young man," Scott said Thursday.

The wreck that killed Joe's mother destroyed their car. Joe said a charitable organization recently helped buy a car for his upcoming trips to BCTC's campuses in Winchester and Lexington. Donations are helping to pay for his auto insurance and a few expenses of "everyday life," he said. Many people have stepped up to offer words of advice.

"Everybody's been there in every way they can be," he said. ''More than I can sit and count."

Joe lived with his mother before her death. He said he is living with a friend.

As he has tried to wrap up a busy senior year, grief "just kind of hits you in waves and in moments," he said.

"One second you are alright, feeling fine. Somebody can say something or you can see something or hear something as simple as a couple of words from a song on the radio," he said. "You think back and sometimes you get stuck in your own thoughts and it makes it hard. But you've just got to keep going on."

Carolyn Perkins, a teacher at Estill County High School, said she saw strength and initiative in Joe, who was her student aide, that she thinks will serve him well as he moves forward.

"He figured out what I needed ... he would do things before I had to ask him," said Perkins.

Sharon Niece mentored Joe when he participated in a work readiness program.

"Joe has been on track from day one," Niece said. "He's very mature for a young person. When you deal with difficulties in life, there's a maturity that comes from that. Some people can go bitter. And some people can go better. And Joe has definitely gone the better route."

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears

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