It was with great sadness that I read about Joe Bell retiring from his weekly gig at the Daily Pilot. I will miss his great stories and vast resource of human insight and wisdom that he delivered to our door on a weekly basis. Like the leaves turning color in the fall or the smell of fresh cut grass in the summer, we could always count on reading a little gem every Thursday.
It never ceased to amaze me how many circles Joe traveled in and the number and variety of celebrities who sat on the other side of his notepad over his long and distinguished career. It amused me how angry some of the residents would get when Joe would take a certain side on an important issue and like Bill Lobdell said, "he never flinched."
I can attest to this on a first-hand personal level, being one of his neighbors and a member of the monthly poker game that I had the privilege of partaking in since I moved here in 1991. I would be sitting there with my best hand of the night betting against Joe, thinking that there was no way he could beat my full house or flush. Joe would just quietly raise the stakes playing his old-guy routine to the hilt until we would either all fold or pay the price to see him turn over a ridiculous hand. I mean, how many times in your life do you see four aces? Not very often unless you lived in the Newport-Mesa area these past 20 years.
We all got a four-aces story every Thursday and I will miss that more than words can express. Thank you for everything Joe and I look forward to seeing you at the game.
Hoping Bell's talents continue for a novel
The Daily Pilot, its readers and the community at large were remarkably fortunate to have a writer of Joe Bell's excellence in the paper. Whatever the Pilot's other virtues and lacks, Joe's weekly column was the thing I consistently looked forward to reading, a destination in itself no matter what the subject. There's nothing showy about Joe's command of the English language, but he always gets the full value out of a word whether he's writing about an uneventful afternoon with friends or the roiling issues of the day. In his columns addressing the latter, it was a particular skill of his to be incisive without being divisive.
It's a sad loss for the paper, but, as he nears the age of 90, it's about time Joe sought out some honest work. Now we can look forward to him finally finishing his novel. The vigor of the man astonishes me. I didn't care about much of anything when I took his journalism class at UCI in the mid-1970s, but his devotion to his craft was contagious. When I chanced into a journalism career a few years later, his teaching and example was nearly all I had to guide me. Some three decades later, it's still an inspiration. Thanks, Joe, and thanks to the Pilot for providing a home for his writing.