Born to a small family of meager means in Houston Texas, Joe was the oldest of 2 boys and 2 girls, who were raised by strict parents. Because of her asthma and seizure disorder, they forbade her from playing like the other kids.
She couldn’t run around or climb trees.
Instead, to pass the time, she retreated into her mind- reading Country Western books, focusing on her school work, and learning the piano.
When she entered high school, though she couldn’t fully participate in the games, she had a lot of fun. However, as her homework load increased, she stopped playing the piano. During her sophomore year, she dated her first real boyfriend. He was a boy about her age, whom she’d known since they were kids. When she was 17, he joined the army and was stationed in California. Because she wasn’t allowed to live with him on base, she stayed behind in Texas.
Around 6 months to a year later, the army finally allowed her to join her partner on base. When she was 18, they wed and lived an unexciting life. With her husband hardly at home, she spent most of her time with other army wives, and found them to be a strong supportive community. And, a couple years after their wedding, she gave birth to their two sons, Jesse and Jeff.
Four years after his arrival in CA, her husband was stationed in Honolulu for seven years. During the day, she would pick pineapples and take the boys to the zoo and luaus. However, Joe and her husband also began drinking heavily together, attending lots of parties with the other soldiers in the platoon and her young boys in tow.
Then, they packed up their family and returned to Texas, where everything changed. There was a lot of development in Houston during their absence. It was much bigger now. They were able to get an apartment off base, and began drinking less.
Unlike Joe’s family, all of her husband’s family had great financial and interpersonal difficulties. Not willing to allow her sons to be pulled into family politics and drama, Joe and her husband began to isolate their nuclear family from her husband’s family.
This arrangement was a hardship for Joe. Accepting that it involved leaving her husband behind, she decided to travel from Houston, with a platonic friend, to Portland. Her husband chose to remain in Texas, because of his job. Meanwhile, Joe liked the idea of Portland, though she never visited the city before. Acknowledging the futility of continuing their relationship with thousands of miles between them, Joe and her husband thought it best to divorce. Unfortunately for Joe, her husband was given custody of their sons.
After arriving in Portland, she found a job doing parts work for a decent wage. However, after a short while, there wasn’t any more work at that company. Without work, she couldn’t pay her rent and became homeless. While on the streets, she mourned the loss of her sons, and commenced her attempts to hide in the bottom of a drink.
She began lashing out at everyone around her, but never found a lack of people, who wanted to self medicate by drinking heavily with her. The sadness, the empty hole in her heart, compounded with frustration and anger about her being homeless and spending her money unwisely and lack of family support led her to develop a wall around herself that would make the Romans proud. With that barrier protecting her, her temper often ignored her small stature, and she would attack anyone around her- man or woman.
This earned her the street name Tiger, and the reputation that even scared Portland police. Eventually, they would gather 6 officers to attend to any calls involving Tiger.
Eventually, she met Dorothy, the executive director at Outreach in Burnside. They visited with each other frequently, and Dorothy became her sponsor. Tiger joined the Outreach family in the 1980s. As the program empowered her to improve herself and her living situation, she began receiving mental health care. As time passed, the phoenix of Tiger’s wrath and pain would lessen. Slowly, Joe appeared from the ashes.
About two decades later, Outreach in Burnside was acquired by the Macdonald Center. Even now, though Dorothy has retired and the program along with its name has evolved over the years, Joe remained. At the young age of 65, she regularly provides a loving, maternal presence in our lobby with only a hint of Tiger below the surface.